By Mark Saldana
Rating: 1.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
I am a big fan of the multi-talented Jack Black and have enjoyed the great performances of his co-star James Marsden. Yet, my love for their talents could not prevent me from giving this movie at least a two star review. I admire their strong commitment to their characters in The D Train; however, I cannot honestly admire a picture which features a main character with sad and disturbing pathological problems, attempts to put a humorous spin on them, and fails painfully. I am not an easily offended movie viewer. It often bewilders me when I hear about people taking offense to profanity, sexual content, or risque humor. Yet this movie manages to completely bewilder and somewhat offended me with its dark and somewhat demented attempts to elicit laughter from the serious psych problems Black’s character has. Also, because of the fact that they make said character so unlikable, I cannot fathom how the writers, director and Black thought they could pull off selling The D Train as a comedic tale of redemption.
Black stars a Dan Landsman, a nearly tyrannical head of his high school reunion committee. He and his board have had a difficult time attracting the alumni of their graduating class to their twenty-year reunion. After seeing former classmate Oliver Lawless (Marsden) on television, Dan believes if he can convince him to attend, others will take an interest. Landsman comes up with an excuse to travel to California to catch up with Oliver and persuade him to attend the reunion. In the process of accomplishing this goal, Landsman takes some extreme liberties with the truth and does some things he will regret. This behavior leads to further problems which snowball and threaten to destroy his once happy life.
Written and directed by Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul, The D Train film is probably as much of a mess as are the lead characters in the film. The movie does have a few funny and hilarious moments, but the decision to go to dark and give the Dan Landsman character some serious psych issues completely deviates the film into some some disturbing and uncomfortable territory. After Mogel and Paul take the material too far into dark territory, the attempts at humor are even more painful and awkward. I sat in the theater completely in awe and praying for the movie to end soon.
It pains me to write these problems of the film, because of my admiration for both Black and Marsden. As expected they deliver exceptional performances here. Black offers an incredible performance. I just think this performance belongs in a more serious and dramatic film. Marsden is also outstanding as the one time, big shot on campus who struggles to survive on an almost non-existent acting career on top of other personal issues. As superb their work in this film is, it just isn’t enough to save this problematic movie.
My problems with the film don’t actually have anything to do with some of the themes the film examines. I simply feel that Mogel and Paul go to far with Dan Landsman’s problems and expect people to laugh when his sociopathy gets really disturbing. As I became better acquainted with Dan Landsman and how his out-of-control behavior affects his family and others very near and supposedly dear to him, the less sorry I felt for him. I actually grew to dislike him. I feel that any audience member with any common sense would feel the same way. Hopefully, reading my review of the film will spare some people from this distasteful movie experience