Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'D Train' a Farce Premise Goes off the Rails

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'D Train' a Farce Premise Goes off the Rails

Article excerpt

Everyone gets to be the hero of his or her own story. But to just about anyone who isn't "The D Train's" Dan Landsman, he's not only no hero - he's also an almost-pathological liar with no moral compass and extremely questionable priorities. Oh, and he's a lousy dad, too.

"Horrible, horrible," says Jack Black, who plays Dan. "But that's what was funny to me, too. I only really laugh at stuff I haven't seen before, now.

"You don't see a lot of movies where the hero is sort of unlikeable and not someone you're really rooting for. The formulaic starting point of all comedies, for the most part, is the character is someone you hope achieves his dreams and goals.

"This guy is a piece of s- and you don't really root for him. He's kind of like a Rupert Pupkin in that way. He's super-insecure and very needy and pathetic. It's difficult to watch him. The desperation, the scenarios he's in are difficult to watch."

The "King of Comedy" reference is apt. Dan is a fabulist, a fantasist whose epic quest is to persuade one Oliver Lawless, the most popular guy from his high school days, to come to the 20-year reunion. That's it.

Dan has a steady job with a compassionate boss, a supportive wife and a son who, against all reason, looks to him for advice. But all of that is pushed aside in his quest to get Lawless (James Marsden), a handsome actor whose most impressive credit is apparently one national commercial, to appear to be his friend. Dan dreams the prize for that triumph will be the admiration of those who ignored him as a teen. This is one hero who craves worship.

"He's so scarred, emotionally, from his experience in high school where he wasn't getting what he needed from the rest of the kids," says Mr. Black. "He's carried that with him all these years, and it's shaped who he is.

"He's got so much, this family he just doesn't see because he's always thinking of what he'd rather have."

It's a farce setup seen countless times, especially on sitcom TV. What sets "D Train" on another track is that it goes there - Dan's willingness to do anything to land Lawless takes him to unexpected stations. Lawless may be a minor thespian, but he's a thoroughly debauched libertine who makes Russell Brand's Aldous Snow ("Get Him to the Greek") look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms.

And unlike ordinary Hollywood fare, this Sundance entrant lets some of the not-so-hilarious consequences of Dan's behavior have their impact. It draws less influence from "My Best Friend's Wedding" than from the Coen brothers.

"I don't think of it as a traditional farce," says Mr. Black, tired but game in a Four Seasons suite in Los Angeles, speaking deliberately. "There was some stuff that was hard to communicate, like little pieces of china, some of the scenes were so subtle. …

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