JEANNE'S REVIEW

 

I was actually shocked by how terrible this film turned out to be. "The D Train" is NOT funny --- definitely shouldn't be considered a comedy, as there are far too many absurdly serious moments.

 

And whomever had the bright idea of using laughs to articulate real-life learning opportunities should be incarcerated. It failed miserably in "Unfinished Business", and now co-writers and co-directors Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel have attempted, once again, to teach the movie-going audience a few "valuable" lessons.

 

Dan Landsman (Jack Black) was as unpopular in high school as he is now trying to head up the reunion planning committee. He's the only one who brings snacks to the meetings for everyone, but when it comes time to go home, Dan is never invited along with the group to stop at the local bar for a beer. In fact, they all lie to him and tell Dan they're going straight home, too, but he follows them and watches the rest of the gang going into their  favorite hangout.

 

Determined to make himself look better in everyone's eyes, Dan comes up with a plan to lure the most popular guy from their class, Oliver Lawless (James Marsden) to Pittsburgh for the big celebration. Lawless is currently the face of the TV ads for Banana Boat Suntan Lotion, and Dan plans a fake business trip to LA to find Lawless and convince him to attend.

 

Per usual, most everything does not go as planned, and we, the audience, can see the foibles of this ridiculous farce way in advance. There is, however, one particular aspect of Dan's night of partying in LA with Lawless that came as a slight surprise, but, despite the fact that it affects the rest of the film, I still could have lived without those images in my head.

 

Black seems off his game. He hasn't starred in a major film in quite a while, and truthfully this script is beneath his talents. The persona of the sad-sack unpopular kid/adult feels forced and decidedly not humorous. Kathryn Hahn plays Dan's wife Stacey and, though always terrific, even she can't infuse any life into this script.

 

Marsden is the best thing about "The D Train". His false cool bravado comes across sharply and well-played. Lawless is a loser in LA, but to Dan he's a hero. Lawless recognizes his "star" power in Dan's eyes and makes the most of it. Their night out on the town in LA is life-changing for both of them --- but in very different ways.

 

Unfortunately the screenplay doesn't capitalize on the revelatory aspects of that experience, but devolves into the same narcissistic male bonding shenanigans we've endured before. And the big "payoff" scene at the reunion between Dan and Lawless is horribly choreographed and shrill.

 

It's a travesty to witness so much wasted talent. Marsden is incredibly handsome --- and excellent at is craft ---- one can't help but wonder why he isn't cast more often. Black deserves a much better vehicle for his talents, as well as Hahn for hers.

 

Opinion: Don't Bother!

 

DAVID'S REVIEW

 

"The D Train" has to be one of the more schizophrenic movies in recent memory. What starts off as an amiable comedy turns into a dark string of events that purport to be funny, but they only serve to change the whole character of the film.

 

Dan Landsman (Jack Black) is part of his high school's 20th reunion committee, although he considers himself to be the self-appointed chairman.

After a flurry of phone calls to members of their graduating class fail to procure enough attendees, Dan sees a TV commercial for Banana Boat Suntan Lotion featuring the school's star athlete, Oliver Lawless (James Marsden). If he can convince Oliver to come to the event, he is sure other reluctant classmates will follow, and Dan will achieve some sort of hero status he never enjoyed in school.

 

The rest of the film centers around Dan's trip to Los Angeles to track down Oliver, pretend they're old buddies, and schmooze with him for the desired results. The problem for Dan is that his boss, Bill (Jeffrey Tambor), has insisted on joining him on the trip because Dan, under false pretenses, tells Bill that a big business deal is in the works for their company. This leads to Oliver posing as the interested party in the deal. Marsden is very effective in pulling this off when the three are together, so convincing that Bill invests a lot of money in new computers, et al, for his firm.

 

Dan and Oliver's escapades in LA are over-the-top. They drink heavily, they snort cocaine, they cavort with beautiful women --- in short, they spend a lot of time and money running around the town. "Where's the money coming from?", Jeanne whispered to me at one point. Indeed, maybe Oliver's commercial contract is a lucrative one, or maybe this plot is descending into stupidity. 

 

The tone of the film changes dramatically when, after partying, the completely wasted pair return to Oliver's apartment. Oliver, who has admitted to Dan that he has a taste for both men and women --- well, I won't reveal what happens, but it's actually totally unexpected and a very amusing sequence in the movie, thanks to Black's mastery of facial expressions.

 

The crowd reaction at our screening was raucous, and anyone overhearing the commotion in the theater would be wondering what was so funny. But fast forward to the actual reunion, and things get very weird and turn serious, morphing the film into a drama trauma.

 

"The D Train" is the first directorial effort for co-writers Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul. Their movie flows well and is competently edited, but despite its promising beginning, the eventual denouement feels forced. What they evidently deemed humorous material just turns ugly. You could practically feel the air come out of the audience's balloon.

 

Kathryn Hahn as Dan's wife, Stacey, is a veteran comedic talent, but she is wasted with little to do. Tambor is always a pleasure to watch on any medium. Marsdan is well-cast as the handsome stud from high school, and when he admits he peaked in the 11th grade, thoughts of one's own high school experience start to surface. And Jack Black is essentially being Jack Black. With a good script, he's as entertaining as anyone in the business. That's not the case here.

 

Opinion: Don't Bother!