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Review: The D Train

James Marsden and Jack Black star in IFC Films' "The D-Train"

There looks to be an innate need to be seen as a popular person in many of us. It’s an understandable desire that may be desired due to never being well liked or wanting to achieve goals in a field that requires people to find you appealing in order to reach a certain level of actual success. In The D Train, the focus is on things just like that as we’re introduced to people looking to become acceptance or popular.

Dan Landsman (Jack Black) is one of those types of people who always wanted to be popular. He’s never been well liked, but he sees an opportunity to reverse that right now. With his high school reunion coming up, he thinks that getting former high school mate and current actor, Oliver Lawless (James Marsden) to make an appearance will get him the kind of admiration he’s obsessed with receiving. What will he do to get Lawless back from L.A. to Pittsburgh? Whatever it takes.

There’s plenty of stuff featured in The D Train with the potential to make you laugh as you’ll likely find a good portion of this entertaining. Of the things I like about The D Train, I’d have to say that I found the characters to be likable from a cinematic standpoint. They aren’t the type of people that I would want to know in real life, but from the perspective of a film, they are a good group of people to watch due to their varying personalities and attributes.

They also effectively assist in introducing the story, and they feel connected with everything that’s being set up as well. At this point, the movie is built around them as we’re seeing what makes these guys who they are regardless of if many of them are of questionable character. If you look deeper, it would possibly allow you to sympathize with them to an extent since people like the two main characters both have the desire to be well liked or popular in their own way.

After this part of The D Train is showcased, the rest turns into something that can only be described in this review as awkward. I’m sure that wouldn’t be a bad thing for some, but for others it may kind of cross into territory that may be a little too weird. You’ll probably end up following the movie wondering how it’s going to unfold, but it could also lead to the film’s downfall in the eyes of many.

Instead of staying on the original path, they decide to build the rest of the story around an extremely unlikely scenario that they never really attempt to explain with any plausible reasoning. It’s an unexpected shift that could work hypothetically, but I’m kind of surprised that they took this and turned it into what eventually becomes the primary plot of it all. They do have some interesting things to hang onto well before the twist, and I would have preferred that they kept things heading in that direction instead.

Keeping it moving toward its original direction would have made it more of a comedic version of a character study. You have everything necessary in place to do just that as we see how the two leads ultimately want the same things but in very different ways and for very different reasons. Accomplishing that task could have made The D Train special, but it may have been too complicated for the creators to handle.

Maybe they did want to go that way at the start and just ran out of ideas that would have allowed them to do so. Then again, they could have been wanting to do it this way all along. Since it’s their film, I couldn’t fault them for that, but it just feels like so much was left on the table as far as potential and heart are concerned. They do deliver some of that, but it doesn’t measure up to what could have been said about it in the end.

While I didn’t love it turning into what it becomes, I found that it still managed to be entertaining in many instances throughout its duration. For that, I’m unable to completely slam The D Train, but I wouldn’t suggest that anyone rush out to theaters to see it since I simply don’t think it’s worth the money.

Rating: R

Jarrad Paul
Andrew Mogel

Jack Black
James Marsden
Kathryn Hahn
Jeffrey Tambor

Film Length: 97 minutes

Release Date: May 8, 2015 (Limited)

Distributor: IFC Films

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