Tuesday, May 12

The D Train Review

The D Train
Dir: Jared Paul and Andrew Mogel
Starring: Jack Black, James Marsden, Kathryn Hahn, and Jeffrey Tambor
97 Minutes
Rated R

High school reunions in film typically play the role of offering vengeance for a character that has something to prove to tormentors of the past. My high school reunion wasnt nearly as exciting; in fact it was very restrained with a small amount people. Still, perhaps because of the clichés that coincide with the films that I watch, I couldnt help but hope for some sort of unexpected drama. Co-directors Jared Paul and Andrew Mogel, who also co-wrote the script, provide an unexpected twist in this reunion comedy that provides a short breath of fresh air to the overused setup. Unfortunately “The D Train” succumbs to its own narrative indecisions and eventually returns to formulaic form.

Dan Landsman (Jack Black) is a mild mannered family man who is planning his 20th high school reunion. Dan was not the cool guy in high school, an attribute easily seen by his interactions with people around him, though that doesnt stop his grandiose ideas about how he can change his unpopular identity by bringing the high school cool kid Oliver Lawless (James Marsden) to the reunion. Dan flies to Los Angeles and finds Oliver; over the course of a few days Dan and Oliver reconnect in more ways than expected.

Dan is an interesting character due impart to the darkly comedic though awkwardly emotional underlyings Jack Black has become good at conveying. Dan wears a few different identities through the course of the film; he starts ordinary then transitions with ego driven thoughts of grandeur and finally into an unlikable though still somewhat sympathetic character. Its a composition that finds success when Black is more reserved which is a difficult task for an actor like Black who at times, in other films as well, will bulldoze through scenes. Still, there are moments here where Black portrays a vulnerable man torn by unfamiliar feelings, ones that evoke anger and jealousy for his changing admiration for Oliver.

Unfortunately, the biggest issue with the film is the lack of direction it takes. The narrative introduces a significant plot twist and then seems to waver along a line of choices that it never fully commits to. The viewer understands that Dan is desperate for attention, jaded by the unfair events from his past. But much of what the characters propose through their actions, especially between the bromance Dan and Oliver offer, is never convincingly answered. While Im not encouraging conformity in storytelling, in fact I commend the steps taken away from the easy route here, there needs to be a moderately clear purpose to connect narrative elements. This hurts the film and makes the end result feel like a disorganized effort. 

“The D Train” finds most of its success with Jack Black and James Marsden, both exceptional with their characters. Their confused and complicated relationship works when played for a dramatic tone instead of forced comedy. There are moments when the film plays for straightforward laughs and other times when you can feel the influence of darker  elements, unfortunately these efforts get lost somewhere in between, and thats its major problem.

Montes Rating

2.75 out of 5.00

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