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The D Train (2015)
Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/1/2015
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/24/2015
Judging by all of the film which fall into the "Well, that wasn't very good." or worse category, making a decent movie is a challenge. With certain sub-genres, that task becomes even harder. The "nervous comedy" in which things keep going wrong for a character, is difficult to pull off, with Meet the Parents being one of the few exceptions. These movies run the risk of going too far and becoming absurd. Even harder still is the film in which the main character is unlikable. Why anyone would even go down that road is beyond me. The Jack Black vehicle The D Train attempts both of those things. Can it pull off the impossible?
Jack Black stars in The D Train as Dan Landsman, a nervous, middle-aged man who works in a dead-end job and feels disconnected at home with his wife, Stacey (Kathryn Hahn). The driving force in Dan's life is leading the planning committee for his high school's upcoming 20 year reunion, although he drives everyone else on the committee crazy (and they shun him at social gatherings.) While watching television one night, Dan notices former classmate Oliver Lawless (James Marsden) on a commercial. He decides that if he can get Oliver to come to the reunion, then everyone will respect him. So, Dan concocts a story about needing to go to Los Angeles for business for his boss (Jeffrey Tambor) and then hits the City of Angels to find Oliver. He soon discovers that Oliver lives in a completely different world and that brining him back home may not be such a good idea.
It's been a while since we've done this, so we're going to put The D Train into the "I've heard of these people, why haven't I heard of this movie?" category. Yes, the movie does have an impressive cast and it did play in theaters. In fact, it opened on 1009 screens in the U.S., where it made a whopping $444 per screen. In its second week, the film was on 162 screens, so I don't have to tell you that it didn't do very well and that you aren't the only person who hasn't heard of it.
And why did this fate befall it? Because it didn't manage to pull off either of the challenges listed above. Let's start with the second one first. Dan is an unlikable character. It is not the case that the people on the committee reject Dan and we are supposed to feel sorry for him. No, he's a pathetic, lying, sycophant of a man and it makes it difficult to care about what happens to him. He's not so bad that we long to see him get his comeuppance. No, it's worse than that -- the movie reaches a point where we just tune Dan and his shenanigans out and wait for the movie to end. You know that the movie has made a mistake when we don't really feel sorry for Stacey. We should be yelling at the screen, "Why are you with him?", but Hahn's performance is so understated that we feel that they deserve one another.
The movie also fails as a "nervous comedy". In its defense, it sets up a classic (read cliched) premise with Dan lying to his boss about the trip. Again, this should have been fodder for lots of moments where the audience squirms, but this never happens. Dan then finds himself falling into more lies as the reuniion approaches. Again, The D Train asks us to make an emotional investment in a story where we don't even like the main character and then expects there to be suspense over whether he's going to get caught in his lies. The movies then shoots itself in the foot when a discussion ensues pertaining to how lying about the trip was completely unnecessary. This makes Dan look like a fool and pushes the viewer further away from the film.
To its credit, The D Train does contain one shocking moment which I did not see coming (but I should have), but other than that, the movie is pretty boring. It's interesting to see Black, who is know for playing energetic, happy-go-lucky types trying something different. His performance isn't bad...perhaps it was too good and that's why Dan was so off-putting. James Marsden career has taken an odd turn in which he seems to play an awful douche-bag in every movie, and that trend continues here. As for everyone else, no one seems very inspired. There is a kernel of a good idea in The D Train which pertains to obsession, hero worship and the loss of dreams, but it gets lost even before the train can leave the station.
The D Train contains an odd cameo on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 38 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good and skin tones look natural. The depth is about what one would expect from a modern comedy on Blu-ray. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.6 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. A nightclub scene provides palpable subwoofer effects. The rest of the film sees adequate stereo and surround effects, some of which do highlight sounds coming from off-screen.
The D Train Blu-ray Disc contains only two extra features. The Disc offers eight DELETED SCENES which run about 7 minutes. All of these are brief and there are no new characters or subplots introduced here. The other extra is a 4-minute GAG REEL.
Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long