“The D Train” marks Jack Black’s first starring role since 2011’s “Bernie,” and it finds him a little more mature and self-restrained than we remember him. He’s still very funny, though, adept as ever at reaction shots and physical comedy. That holds true even in a film, like “The D Train,” that runs out of ideas long before it reaches the conclusion.
Black plays Dan Landsman, a Pittsburgh loser who heads up the class of 1994’s high school reunion committee with great fervor. The committee has been unable to drum up much support for the reunion, but that changes when Dan sees a TV commercial starring classmate Oliver Lawless (James Marsden), once the most popular guy in school and now, apparently, a successful actor. If Dan can get him confirmed as a reunion attendee, surely word will spread and others will follow suit.
Dan, who works for a consulting firm, concocts a series of lies about a potential client to justify a trip to L.A., fooling his amusingly technophobic boss (Jeffrey Tambor), as well as his sympathetic wife (Kathryn Hahn) and adolescent son (Russell Posner). In L.A., Oliver turns out to be a heavy-drinking, hard-partying bro who’s not nearly as successful as Dan thinks he is. He’s also openly bisexual. Dan is starstruck and man-crushing on Oliver, who is amused by Dan’s worship of him. They go out partying, become pals, and get involved in each other’s lies. They also share an incident of physical intimacy that means nothing to promiscuous Oliver Lawless but a lot to heretofore exclusively heterosexual Dan Landsman.
Written and directed by the team of Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul (“Yes Man,” TV’s “Allen Gregory”), the film makes good use of Black, Marsden, Hahn, and Tambor, and the part of the story committed to Dan’s web of lies is funny. The problems are in the other half of the story — the part about Dan’s confusion after his rendezvous with Oliver. The film wins points for treating Oliver’s bisexuality like it’s no big deal, but after The Incident, Mogel and Paul have no idea what to do with it. Many jokes boil down to nothing more than “tee hee, Dan did something humiliating!” If there’s a larger point to be made about male friendships, about the lengths men will go to for another man’s approval, or about the fluidity of sexuality, “The D Train” can’t find it. The opportunity thus missed, the film becomes just another raunchy bromantic comedy that earns a few laughs before petering out.
C (1 hr., 37 min.; )
Originally published at GeekNation.