By Luis Ortega
The 1-4-0: A typically average indie film, #TheDTrain can deliver on laughs, but its darker and serious undertones hurt the movie instead of making it interesting.
The Gist: Dan Landsman (Jack Black) was an outcast in high school and has remained an outcast even through adulthood. When Dan, as “chairman” of the alumni committee, sees the opportunity to get the most popular guy from high school (James Marsden) to attend the upcoming 20-year reunion, he sees it an opportunity to be one of the cool guys.
What Works: The acting from the main cast is very spot-on. I always tend to have a hard time buying into Black’s more serious roles, but he always manages to pull it off. Marsden portrays Oliver Lawless very convincingly as well. It’s very easy to see a much more fragile individual underneath the shades and smokes and that is perfectly fine. Lawless is, like Landsman, very damaged. The layers underneath the leather make his character that much more interesting. The comedy, for the most part, works. Every scene with Jeffrey Tambor, who plays Dan’s boss, Bill, is gold. There is also an interesting parallel between Lawless and Landsman that’s nice to see.
What Doesn’t Work: Most of the supporting cast (Kathryn Hahn, Russell Posner, amongst others) are modest at best. They’re only ever relevant when the film needs them to be. One of my main issues with the film is simply how unlikeable Dan Landsman is. Something happens fairly early in the movie that makes it a much darker piece. Landsman has no clue what he wants, nor why he is upset for the majority of the movie. As a result the audience is entirely unsure as well. Is he upset because he’s still not cool? Is he upset because he isn’t liked? The reason why this presents an issue is because it results in the film struggling to figure itself out. What is it trying to say? By the final act, the film reeks of neediness (like Landsman). The jokes that came naturally at first start to sound forced. It also desperately wants to redeem its protagonist, with a typical “Hollywood” ending, but by then it’s too late. There is an interesting theme that’s never fully explored. It is incredibly hard to miss and yet this theme is just left in the dust. It makes for sloppy writing and a disappointing experience because it could have been so much more.
Pay or Nay: Pay. I think the film is good enough. When it’s funny, it’s funny. When it’s dark, it’s dark. It does some things well, such as sustain a timeless feel to it, but it’s just the shortcomings that prevent it from being a great film.
Rated: R for strong sexual material, nudity, language and drug use.
Release Date: May 8, 2015
Screenplay: Jarrad Paul, Andrew Mogel
Director(s): Andrew Mogel, Jarrad Paul
Starring: Jack Black, James Marsden, Kathryn Hahn, Jeffrey Tambor, Mike White, Kyle Bornheimer, Russell Posner, Henry Zebrowski, Corrina Lyons, Donna Duplantier, Charlotte Gale, Denise Williamson, Han Soto, Danielle Greenup, Dermot Mulroney
Distributor: IFC Films
Film Genre: Dark Comedy