Dark comedy is one of my favorite things. When it works it’s because it’s satirical and absurd and the absurdity allows us to see the ridiculousness of a certain situation. Movies like Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove uses dark comedy to show us something about humanity. Most comedy is light. Dark comedy is heavy and impactful. The D-Train tries to be that dark comedy. The problem is it relies mostly on shock value and nothing substantial for its impact.
Jack Black is back on the big screen as Dan Landsman, a self-loathing, unpopular, middle aged guy who, despite having a loving family and a decent job, only seems to care about his twenty year high school reunion he is trying to put together. When he discovers that Oliver Lawless, the most popular guy from high school, is in a nationwide Banana Boat commercial, he decides that Oliver is the ticket to a successful reunion.
This movie boasts some pretty big names. Jack Black, Kathryn Hahn, James Marsden, and Jeffrey Tambor have all had success in the past. This cast does all they can, but I can’t for the life of me understand how these talented actors read this script and still wanted to be a part of this project. The dialogue is awkward, the laughs are not there, and nothing makes any sense. On top of all that, the pacing is terrible. This was the longest 100 minute movie I have ever tried to sit through. If only the bad screenplay was the only problem this movie had. Unfortunately, it’s not even the biggest one.
I spent the first half of this movie wondering why in the world a high school reunion was so important to this 38 year old man. He seems to be doing alright in his life. He has a supportive wife, which Hahn portrays with the best performance in the film. He has a teenage son who seems to respect him. On top of that, he appears to have a very comfortable job. With all this going for him, he is completely hung up on how bad his high school experience was. He voluntarily throws all the good things in his life away by lying about having to take a business trip to L.A. (which the movie itself later points out was completely unnecessary) so that he can find this Oliver Lawless and get him to come to the reunion. This makes no sense to me and destroys the films credibility immediately.
So, the first half of the movie is boring and confusing. Then something happens that makes the rest of the movie, still boring and confusing, but also weird and awkward. This is part of the films reliance on shock value that I mentioned earlier. This scene is completely unnecessary to the plot of the movie. Also unnecessary are the many F-bombs Kathryn Hahn drops while she is holding her baby (which in a few scenes is very obviously a doll) and the way too adult problems that their 13 year old son is having with his new girlfriend. Awkwardness appears to be the theme of this film.
I found very little to like about this movie. There is a decent point buried in it somewhere but the movie completely misses it. The performances are good (especially Marsden and Hahn) but they are wasted on a messy script and characters that are impossible to appreciate. The best compliment I can give this film is that the soundtrack was good. That should tell you all you need to know.
This is one of those movies that is such a mess that I can’t imagine how anybody involved ever thought that it was any good. It is horribly written, not particularly well directed, and wastes a pretty good collection of talent. This movie is such a mess that I am honestly ashamed to have seen it. The Movie Man gives it 1 out of 5 stars.
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