“I feel there are some movies that are remembered for that one scene. Regardless of whatever happened, good or bad, they are defined by a few frames. Of course, I can’t think of any of the bat, but I’m sure you get the general idea. I fear that’s kinda what’s gonna happen to The D Train once word gets out. Well assuming word even gets out because there were a total of 4 people in the auditorium for my Sat afternoon showing, and I doubt it’s doing much better elsewhere. Normally, I’d sort of resent that type of judgement, but honestly, for this movie, I don’t really care.
Unfortunately, I can’t really tell you what that one scene is. When I’d first heard about this film, I heard it described by it. Then I saw it wasn’t even alluded to in the trailer or any of the promos, and I saw star James Marsden quoted that you should enter this film with an open mind, not knowing too much about it. Roger that, James! Lips sealed. To be honest, I kinda agree with that assessment since I did spend the early part of the movie wondering and focused on when it would happen, just out of curiosity. And while that knowledge did add to my curiosity, it was really the pairing of James Marsden and Jack Black that got my attention. That and a slow movie weekend as films are still too scared to compete against last week’s Avengers.
Jack Black is the self professed chairman of his high school’s alumni committee, working to put together their class’s 20th reunion. Faced with a general lack of enthusiasm (and therefore lack of attendance) from his former peers, he gets a brainstorm. After seeing the once cool kid in a national commercial (Marsden), he believes that if he can get the popular guy to come to the reunion, the rest of the class will follow. Black puts together a fake business trip to fly to LA to visit Marsden, where the two engage in some pretty self destructive hijinks. Marsden agrees to come to the reunion, but once in town, it’s not quite the party Black was hoping for.
Doesn’t sound too bad, right? For some reason (well multiple possible reasons, which we’ll get into), I couldn’t stand this movie. I just felt incredibly incredibly uncomfortable throughout the whole thing. And just so we’re clear, my comfort level had nothing to do with the scene in question. That’s not what made me squirm about in my seat.
First off, while I like Jack Black, I didn’t find his character very likable. And when your leading man is unlikable, you have some major problems. As an actor, I love the guy, but this wasn’t one of his endearing characters I love him for. He was a sad and desperate and not so smart guy, and he only kept on making more and more trouble for himself, digging himself deeper and deeper, and at some point, you stop sympathizing. Marsden, whom I love even more, started off kinda cool, but soon was also unlikable. He was just kinda sleazy and depressed and not in a good place in life, and it was tough seeing someone like that idolized by the other characters.
What may have been the biggest strike against it was how overly complicated some of the set up was. Black had this whole scheme where he claimed to have set up a business deal out in LA so he could get a free trip there, that got complicated when his boss (Jeffrey Tambou) insisted on coming with. It felt like I was stuck in a bad dream, where he kept on making things worse instead of putting a stop to things. That avoidable awkwardness is one of the easiest ways to make me want to run out of the theater. It also didn’t help that I had no idea what their company did, which made it confusing to see them fighting for business without ever really saying why.
Then there were little things. Jeffrey Tambor was great at playing the incredibly not tech savvy boss, but his slow and methodical mannerisms weren’t helped by the slow pacing of the film. Discussions with him over how to Google or send email frustrated me, because it felt just like me having those same talks with my Mom. Also, given my history and high school experiences, I just didn’t like the reunion aspect of the premise. I don’t want to think about high school or who I knew or what classes I took. And I’d rather not spend a whole film focused on someone else doing that.
For me, the whole thing just didn’t work. I’d be interested to see Marsden and Black team up for something better, but I’d be perfectly happy not to ever have to think about this movie again. I’ll award Kathryn Hahn points for effort as Black’s wife, but she wasn’t enough to save this film.
Again, all of this is just how I saw it. On my way out, there was a guy with a few ipads looking for feedback on the film. I filled out the form with less than stellar comments (which always saddens me. I really want to enjoy the movies I see, and I take no joy in tearing them down, often trying to find at least some redeemable quality) and overheard somebody else verbally giving his feedback where he was praising the film. Ratings and scores I’ve seen on Rotten Tomatoes and elsewhere are also more positive. They’re not out of this world, but clearly other people found things to enjoy in it. Besides the eye candy of James Marsden, I didn’t. Sometimes that’s okay. They can’t all be winners
The D Train – \m/ \n”