Leaving the Station: THE D TRAIN: Jack Black Conductor

THE D TRAIN

Opens May 8, 2015

Rated R

97 minutes

Grade: B

“The D Train” stars Jack Black as Dan Landsman, an outwardly ordinary Joe who’s helping to plan his 20th high school reunion. His testy dealings with the other reunion committee members suggest that he was as unpopular in high school as he is now. He’s not a bad guy, but more of a quirky misfit who’s always trying too hard to be the big man. When he sees one of the school’s former golden boys, Oliver Lawless (James Marsden), in a television commercial, Dan decides to try to persuade him to come to the reunion.

Dan dreams, as you see in an amusing dream fantasy, that landing Oliver will turn him into the reunion hero. The writer-directors Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel don’t make Dan a full-blown fantasist.  He’s his own version of the American dream and appears happily married with a supportive wife, Stacey (Kathryn Hahn), and two children, as well as contentedly employed. (Jeffrey Tambor) It’s perfectly ordinary if also not enough for Dan who, with can-do resolve, flies to Los Angeles, where he finds Oliver. There, over several days and booze fueled and drug enhanced nights, they bond big time, including in bed.

D-TRAINThe D Train” takes the bromance to its comic disaster meltdown. Even so, it plays it sweet rather than tough, as in a close-up of Dan, his face pained in jealousy as he glares at Oliver across a dance floor. “The D Train” isn’t the first comedy to coax laughs out of two ostensibly straight guys having sex, a situation more typically found in seriously unfunny prison movies. The 2009 indie movie “Humpday,” a sendup of the genre, circled the issue with two straight male friends who decide to make a porno movie with each other. Typical bromances, of course, which feature regular straight guys who engage in stereotypically, even hyperbolically coded male behavior: They play air guitar, drink to excess, become involved in street altercations and so forth.

“The D Train” acknowledges there can be more to all the usual relentless joking than the reproduction of male power. Bonding and competition is part of the evolution of male friendships. It may be a instinctual survival mechanism to challenge your peers but the development of enduring friendships is finding a comfortable equilibrium. So, sometimes when your buddy says “I love you, man,” he really, really means it.

 

About Will Henley

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