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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The D Train 2015 * * 1/2 Stars

The D TrainDirectors: Andrew Mogel, Jarrad Paul
Year: 2015
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Jack Black, James Marsden, Kathryn Hahn

Ealing Studios The D Train (my latest review), is a risk taker. It's the kind of movie Hollywood just doesn't churn out anymore. Just imagine the late John Hughes, 80's Cameron Crowe, and even "Train" producer Mike White (remember 2000's Chuck & Buck?) butting heads while releasing a 100 minute-plus collaboration. That's what you get here. I'm in awe of the film's perfect casting (James Marsden is gold as actor Oliver Lawless, a B-lister wannabe), its biting, retro soundtrack ("Turning Japanese", what a classic), and its dare to be outside the box in terms of theme or thesis. What I'm not in awe of, is its wishy-washy tone with characters who are well dug in, yet hypocritical in their actions. There's barely anyone to root for and truthfully, The D Train is no comedy (even though it's advertised that way). After a rough and rugged revelation thirty minutes in, this flick's caboose detours into darkness pretty darn quickly.

Featuring a devilish cameo in the form of Dermot Mulroney (for me, this was the best couple of minutes in the whole shebang) and illuminating a cringe-worthy scene in which a man gives a 14-year old boy advice on how to have a threesome with two girls (ugh), The D Train focuses on Dan Landsman (played by Jack Black). He's a family man, a toad that works at a company close to going under, and a committee head for the 20-year reunion of his high school class. People generally don't like him, he's a spaz, and what's worse, he tends to be short and obtuse with his own kids. But hey, he's got a plan. He's going to fly from "the Steel City" to Los Angeles, CA to get one of his old classmates to attend said reunion. Oliver Lawless (Marsden) is his target. Lawless is uber famous starring in a cheesy commercial for suntan lotion. If Danny boy can get this dude to grace everyone's presence, many will think he's cool and on the ball. Chaos ensues during an awkward, hazy recruitment between nerd and hunk. Just think Brokeback Mountain on the modern day tip.

First time directors Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul film "Train" in two acts. Act one involves L.A. with its glitter and glitz not to mention its penchant for shallow malevolence. Act two is the reunion (over 2400 miles away), a sort of forced mess of despondency. There's plenty of drug use, plenty of innuendo, and lots of lying. Like I mentioned earlier, this vehicle crosses a line but at least it tries to be a different animal. I mean there's points to be had here.

Nevertheless, here's some tidbits that threw me for a loop with The D Train: 1. If Daniel and Oliver slept together (spoiler), why can't Daniel just let it go? He's got a wife and two kids and yet he wants to talk to Oliver about it as if they're in a relationship. Weird. 2. Why does Daniel kick Oliver out of his house and then quit the reunion committee because said Banana Boat guy is the main attraction? Wasn't it his lame brain idea to have Ollie come to Pittsburgh in the first place? 3. Finally, why would Daniel risk his job and his dignity just to get a no-name, Hollywood cliche back home to anoint every townie with his allotment? What's the point really? It just feels like the act of a desperate man, a man who needs a hobby or some sort of counseling. Drivel. I mean it's just plain drivel.

In the end, what's authentic in scope, is confusing in latitude. What's icky in tone, is absorbing in viewership. "Train" is a bruising affair with hardly any laughs. The lead actors dive into their roles (with much discipline) yet the resolve is unclear. Is this a movie about isolation? Maybe. Is it about the need for reverence? I guess. Is it about envy? Sure why not. And is it about inadequacy or just the requirement of friendship? You could say that. Honestly, I couldn't decipher what the be-all end-all was. That makes it hard for me to truly garner a recommendation. The D Train is not exactly a "train"wreck. But it merely derails when it should just barrel through. The result: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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