Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The D Train

"The D Train" stars Jack Black as Dan Landsman, a Pittsburgh __________ (it's not clear exactly what he does, just that he works for Jeffrey Tambor's underperforming company) who chairs his high school reunion committee even though nobody much liked him then or now.

One night, he sees a commercial for Banana Boat sunblock starring none other than ex-classmate Oliver Lawless (hunky James Marsden). Dan, obsessing, hits on the idea of flying to L.A., cajoling Oliver to come to reunion, and magically turning all the noes they're getting into yeses. On the pretense of closing a deal with a VC firm that could save their business, he convinces Tambor (who insists on tagging along) to approve the trip. Once in L.A., he makes a beeline for Lawless, persuading him to pose as the firm's CEO, and the two spend long Hollywood nights partying and snorting coke before the bisexual Oliver pulls Dan in for a drunken kiss that leads to fellatio and actual anal intercourse. Yes, "The D Train" is the rare movie that "goes there," and I like that about it. (Dan also has good, fun sex with his wife, played by Kathryn Hahn. It's nice to see a fat guy who gets to fornicate; usually the movies assume you become asexual above a certain weight.) 

Back in Pittsburgh and wallowing in shame - at the fact of his adultery as much as the form it took, at the impending revelation of his charade - Dan suggests Oliver, whom he eventually sold on the reunion, not come after all. Too late: Oliver's already in the air, and Dan, not understanding his own jealousy, insists Oliver stay with his family rather than with two other guys on the committee. He goes full-on psycho hose beast when Oliver brings home a hot ex-girlfriend and later coaches Dan's high-school-freshman son on the mechanics of the threesome his senior girlfriend wants to have. The soap opera climaxes, of course, at reunion, where the music stops and Oliver lets everyone know just what lengths Dan went to to secure his attendance, telling him, "You weren't even a blip on my radar screen." This is crazy stuff for a movie pitched as a silly bromantic comedy. "The D Train" goes places few indies even dare to tread.

The sideline involving Tambor's sweet but apparently dumb-as-dirt businessman is a comic dead zone, poorly conceived and clumsily executed by writer-directors Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul. And while I wish there were more laughs (Hahn, who carried Jill Soloway's "Afternoon Delight" to the #8 spot on my 2013 top-ten list, has much too little to do), there are just enough. I had "The D Train" down at two stars, but writing this, I've changed my mind. A discommendation feels wrong for a movie so unexpectedly, queasily fearless.

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