Part buddy comedy, part sad-sack drama, The D Train is an amalgamation of so many ideas and tones that it ironically ends up being a forgettable film. The directorial debut of writing duo Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul, this movie shows glimpses of meaningful satire and boisterous comedy, only to fizzle out due to a number of loose ends and a lack of payoff. Despite a tremendous cast, The D Train is a dud.
Jack Black stars as Dan Landsman, a lifetime outcast who has settled for a quiet suburban life in the town he was born and raised in. Dan is a member of his high school’s 20th-anniversary-reunion committee, and he takes the position far too seriously. He’s the butt of many jokes from the other committee members, who view the family man as a leper and exclude him from social outings. His supportive wife (Kathryn Hahn) and admiring 14-year-old son (Russell Posner) are his only confidants.
While watching TV late one night, Dan notices a familiar face on a commercial for Banana Boat sunscreen -- ultra-cool former classmate Oliver Lawless (James Marsden). Dan’s delusions take over, and he convinces himself that he must get Oliver to come to the reunion in order to finally reign over his high-school enemies.
Dan formulates a wildly irresponsible plan to go to Los Angeles and contact Oliver. He falsifies a business lead that his technology-challenged boss (the excellent Jeffery Tambor) believes will save their tiny consulting firm. They then head off to L.A., forcing him to make up excuses explaining why the fake client has cancelled their meetings. At the same time, Oliver agrees to meet up for drinks -- which leads to a drug-fueled night of debauchery and some wide-eyed ogling from Dan. Truth be told, Oliver is no Hollywood star. He’s burned out and addicted to drugs, but Dan’s obsession bolsters his ego, and so he agrees to return home for a reunion where he knows he’ll be admired.
To spare the reader a spoiler, let’s just say that something happens in L.A. that drastically changes the relationship between Dan and Oliver. The film unravels after this moment, as Dan attempts to cover for his irrational cross-country trip, alienates his family, and severely freaks out his new idol. By the time we get to the night of the reunion, the event itself is almost an afterthought.
There’s very little originality left in the “perennial loser gets one last shot to become popular” narrative, but The D Train’s outstanding cast keep this flick watchable. Marsden turns in perhaps his best performance to date as the slick Oliver, who displays undeniable charm while hiding his fractured life beneath his cigarettes and leather jackets. Black is fantastic in a difficult and multifaceted role as the obsessive Dan, and Hahn steps away from her typical comedic style of relying on just facial expressions to turn in a heartfelt performance.
The problem with The D Train is that there simply aren’t enough laughs in the script by Mogel and Paul. There are some humorous jabs at adults fumbling over social media (which are sure to make every millennial cringe), but they are just blips on the film’s radar. Mogel and Paul are stuck halfway between slapstick and satirical black comedy, committing to neither and creating some gaping plot holes via their indecision.
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- Released: 2015
- Rating: R
- Review: Part buddy comedy, part sad-sack drama, The D Train is an amalgamation of so many ideas and tones that it ironically ends up being a forgettable film. The directorial debut of writing duo Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul, this movie shows glimpses of meaningfu… (more)