The D Train (2015) Movie Review: Jack Black Shines in Surprisingly Off-Kilter Comedy

Drinking Game

Do a Shot: everytime Dan makes a nickname for themselves

Take a Drink: whenever Dan is depressed

Take a Drink: during the shocking twist

Do a Shot: anytime James Marsden looks cool

Just so fly.
Just so fly.

Take a Drink: during each awkwardly hilarious moment

Take a Drink: to Jack Black’s soul patch

An interesting choice to say the least.
An interesting choice to say the least.

Community Review

How many beers do you recommend for this movie?
1 Beer! A Toast! Great Movie!2 Beers! Good Movie!3 Beers! Okay Movie!4 Beers! Mediocre Movie!5 Beers! Awful Movie!6-Pack! Bad movie! Do not be Sober!

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Movie Review

By: Matt Conway (Two Beers) – 

For me at least, Jack Black has always been a personal favorite as far as comedic actors go. Black has always been an incredibly affable guy, who gets big laughs with his likable, bold persona. Roles in flicks such as  School of Rock, Nacho Libre, and Kung Fu Panda made him a star in Hollywood, but what makes Jack Black great is that stardom never changed who he was.

Black has always had a penchant of doing interesting, more outside of the box projects. Black first started out as a member of the rock duo Tenacious D, whose combination heavy metal and comedy is surprisingly quite enjoyable. In film, Black’s daring performance in Bernie surprised many, showing that he had the dramatic chops along with his comedic talents. The D Train, Jack Black’s latest foray into drama, is quite effective, and a surprisingly thoughtful dark comedy.

Robbed of an Oscar nomination
Robbed of an Oscar nomination

The D Train follows Dan, the head of a high school reunion committee who still can’t seem to be accepted by his former high school peers. In an effort to get their acceptance, Dan tracks down Oliver Lawless, the most popular man from their class, trying to get him to go to the reunion.

A Toast 

What makes The D Train work as well as it does is Jack Black, who shines here in the leading role. As Dan, Black is able to disappear into his offbeat character, and thankfully never makes him a caricature. Instead of just being an unlikable loser, Black shows Dan as a man shaped by his insecurities, which are largely caused by his lack of acceptance by his peers. Dan becomes a man hell-bent on getting their affection, which becomes a destructive journey for him and those around him.

The D Train, thankfully though, never judges Dan as a bad guy. He certainly makes his fair share of mistakes along the way, but all of those mistakes are understandable. Scribes Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel shape Dan as a fully-realized character, who is not defined by his offbeat nature. It’s an understated and thoughtful performance by Black, one that is deserving of more attention than it is receiving.

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Getting shit faced at your high school reunion is certainly an understandable mistake.

Starring alongside Black is James Marsden, who also is quite good in his role. As Oliver, Marsden plays the too-cool for school persona with ease, oozing with charm. Oliver, though, thankfully is not a one-note character, with the script thankfully showing Oliver as a more realistic person, struggling trying to become an actor in Hollywood while Dan puts him on a pedestal. Both Marsden and Black have great chemistry together, and help make their relationship very much believable.

The D Train in a lot of ways is a dark comedy, and has its fair share of funny moments. Both Mogel and Paul thankfully are able to utilize Black and Marsden’s comedic talents quite well, with both of them having a fair share of funny scenes. Most of them are due to Black’s eagerness, creating a lot of awkward, yet funny moments. The film never pokes fun at its characters, though, which is a pleasant change of pace compared to most Jack Black films.

*cough* King Kong
*cough* King Kong

Where The D Train really stands out is its audacious nature. Without spoiling the film, the story goes in directions that audiences will not see coming, but thankfully these audacious turns make the film even better. These weird turns thankfully are never too ridiculous, with the film very much still feeling grounded in realism. The story’s offbeat direction helps make the film deeper and more thoughtful than one would expect from the trailers.

The D Train’s script works mainly because of how thoughtful it is. Both Mogel and Paul tackle very real issues such as our insecurity as people and the importance of accepting oneself in a real, non-cliche manner that works quite well. Despite how dark the film gets, the duo are thankfully able to make The D Train less about Dan’s self-destruction, but more about the journey of him accepting who he truly is.

Especially shocking coming from the duo that made Yes Man.
Especially shocking coming from the duo that made Yes Man.

Beer Two

While most of the elements in the film are quite realistic, I did not buy the relationship between Dan and his wife Stacey, played by Kathryn Hahn. Throughout the film, Dan is very dismissive of Stacey, which left me often times asking why she was with Dan in the first place. Their dynamic just did not feel very realistic, and it’s a waste of Hahn’s great talent.

See Afternoon Delight if you want to see Hahn shine.
See Afternoon Delight if you want to see Hahn shine.

While most the script is quite daring, the film comes to a too-clean conclusion. After all the havoc and hardships that have been caused, one would expect there to be a bit more falling out. The D Train wraps up quite cleanly, however, with most of the characters and their dilemmas being pieced together in an unrealistic way. A more dangerous ending would have helped the film shine even more.

Verdict

Despite there being some notable flaws, The D Train is a daring, surprisingly thoughtful flick that has much more on its mind than the trailers lead you to believe. The shining star, however, is Jack Black, who continues to prove that he is a truly great actor. Hopefully he continues to get good roles like this.

About Matt Conway

I love movies and sports and run on sentences. You can find me at a basketball court, the local theater, or napping on a couch somewhere.

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