“The D Train” an Unsettling Jack Black Comedy
By Skip Sheffield
How far would a popular, likable comic actor go to gain credibility as a serious actor?
In the case of Jack Black , you could pretty much say “all the way.”
Jack Black plays the desperate-to-please Dan Landsman in the unsettling comedy “The D Train.”
Dan was the archetypical schlub in high school; a boy of no significance, remembered by no one. Twenty years later he wants to rewrite history as chairman of his 20th high school reunion committee. Despite his best efforts, response is tepid for the impending event. Dan gets the bright idea that if he can invite the most popular guy in his class, Oliver Lawless (James Marsden), others will hop on the bandwagon and make it the best reunion ever.
Handsome Oliver is now an actor in Los Angeles whose seductive smile and buff body are seen nationwide in a Banana Boat suntan lotion TV commercial.
So far, so good in a script by director Andrew Mogel (“Yes Man”) and Jarrad Paul (“Yes Man,” “Movie 43”). Instead of buying a round-trip ticket and owning up to his scheme to his trusting wife Stacey (Kathryn Hahn), Dan concocts a bogus interview opportunity with a potential partner in his Pittsburgh company and pitches it to his boss, Bill Shurmer (Jeffrey Tambor) so he can fly on the company nickel.
Shurmer is a super-conservative guy who doesn’t even have a computer, but he likes Dan’s idea, and worse, he insists he go along.
This is complication No. 1, and it’s a doozy. Once in L.A. under the pretext of meeting with a non-existent business partner, Dan hunts down Oliver Lawless in his sleazy bachelor pad. Lawless is clearly not the shining success Dan thought he was. He is vain, self-centered, alcoholic, reckless and utterly devoid of any conscience or moral compass. Does this deter Dan? Nah.
So begins Dan’s fast, dizzying slide into L.A.’s corrupting influence. We won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say Dan engages in behavior that would make him and his family ashamed back home, and probably cost him his job.
What begins as a funny romp gets darker and darker and increasingly more uncomfortable.
Jack Black certainly lets it all hang out as pathetic Dan Landsman. James Marsden gleefully lampoons Hollywood pretty boys, but who doesn’t think they are a joke?
As I face a landmark high school reunion cleverly disguised as a member of the band I think it couldn’t possibly be as bad as this movie. Could it?