The D Train

Posted on May 7, 2015 at 5:34 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Profanity: Very strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, smoking, drugs
Violence/ Scariness: Some peril
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: May 8, 2015

Copyright 2015 IFC Films
Copyright 2015 IFC Films
Comedies, especially dark ones, have a lot of freedom when it comes to narrative logic, but the emotional logic still has to ring true. No matter how crazy the storyline gets, the way the characters respond to it has to make sense, and that is where “The D Train” goes, well, off the rails.

Jack Black plays Dan Landsman, who is helping to organize his high school’s 20th reunion. He keeps insisting he is the chairman of the planning committee, but none of the other members think he holds that title, even though he is the only one who knows the password to the reunion’s Facebook page. Dan organizes their meetings, rearranging the desks in the school library and setting up the phones to call the alumnae and encourage them to attend. He has a laminated sign with suction cups to stick on the door to make sure they are not disturbed. This reunion matters tremendously to him. He is married to a classmate (Kathryn Hahn) and seems stuck in high school, still hoping to find a way to be one of the popular kids and have a cool nickname.

Late one night, he sees a commercial for sunblock starring another classmate, Oliver Lawless (James Marsden). Dan decides that this means Oliver is a celebrity, and that if he can persuade him to attend the reunion, everyone else will want to come, too. So he lies to his tech-phobic boss (Jeffrey Tambor) to wrangle a business trip to LA, but makes it sound so promising that the boss insists on coming along.

In LA, Oliver is at first not even interested enough to be puzzled by Daniel’s attention. But then he begins to warm to Daniel’s enthusiastic approval. They have a couple of very debauched nights, especially the second one. What happens in LA does not stay in LA, and the fragility of Daniel’s most fundamental sense of himself is revealed. When Oliver does show up for the reunion, Daniel begins to unravel.

Marsden, always underestimated as an actor, is superb in this role, fully embracing the character’s darkness, narcissism, self-loathing, and vulnerability. But Black does not have enough to work with to make Daniel sympathetic enough for us to want him to succeed or evil enough for us to want him to fail.

Parents should know that this film has extremely strong and crude language and very explicit sexual references and situations, drinking, smoking, and drug use.

Family discussion: Why was the reunion so important to Daniel? Why was Daniel’s admiration (and his debauching) so important to Oliver?

If you like this, try: “Chuck and Buck”

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