Magazine article Variety

Nervy 'D Train' Gets 'A' for Effort

Magazine article Variety

Nervy 'D Train' Gets 'A' for Effort

Article excerpt

Nervy 'D Train' Gets 'A' for Effort

Funny and sad isn't the easiest combination to pull off, and while both descriptors fit "The D TYain" well enough, this dark comedy might just as well be described as edgy and soft, audacious and coy, a largely enjoyable letdown. Starring Jack Black as a chronic loser who decides to save his high-school reunion by securing the attendance of the class celebrity (a terrific James Marsden), Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel's directing debut puts an impressively daring spin on the modern bromance, finding a unique and undeniably funny point of entry into familiar squirm-inducing realms of male bonding, competitiveness and insecurity. Yet while the startling central twist stands to generate considerable pre-release curiosity for this decently commercial entry (which IFC picked up at Sundance), it also allows the slick but shaky effort to peak too soon.

Paul and Mogel, who also share credit for the screenplay, lay the groundwork with expert slyness. Their sad-sack antihero is Dan Landsman (Black), a selfdeluded, overly talkative and controlling personality who has appointed himself chairman of his Pittsburgh high-school reunion committee, even though his fellow alums can't stand him and he's never had any real friends. He does have a loving wife, Stacey (Kathryn Hahn), and a sweet, sensitive teenage son, Zach (Russell Posner). He also has a stable job at a small consulting firm run by his resolutely old-fashioned boss, Bill (the excellent Jeffrey Tambor).

When Dan recognizes the dreamy lifeguard in a Banana Boat sunscreen commercial as his old classmate Oliver Lawless (Marsden), he cooks up an outlandish plot to renew nonexistent old ties with Oliver, now a Hollywood-based actor, and persuade him to attend the reunion - a ruse that requires him to fabricate a "business trip" to Los Angeles in order to fool his boss and his wife. Against all odds, Dan's enthusiasm and persistence pay off, and soon the portly nobody finds himself happily tagging along with the hunky celebrity.

Those who wish to preserve the purity of the viewing experience should read no further. For everyone else, suffice to say that, aside from the fringier, lowbudget likes of "Humpday," relatively few American movies have so directly confronted the still relatively taboo subject of male bi-curiosity, or done so by casting such an improbable duo of wellknown actors. …

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