Review By Bradley Smith
While serving on the reunion committee as the self-appointed and heavily disputed chairman, Dan Landsman (Jack Black) spots the most popular guy from his high school class, Oliver Lawless (James Marsden), in a national television commercial campaign and assumes he has become a big success in Hollywood. Desperate for even a taste of popularity, Dan sets out to recruit his old classmate to return home for their 20 year reunion; which Dan believes will encourage others to return and make him a hero. However, after traveling from Pittsburg to Los Angeles, where Oliver now resides working as a struggling actor, Dan is led down a path that may drastically alter his entire life and career as Oliver becomes intertwined in all aspects of his life.
Jack Black goes against his over-the-top comedic style and turns in a spectacular performance in this dark comedy as the straight(ish) Dan Landsman; he made me care about Dan enough to question some of his choices and occasionally feel his pain and confusion. James Marsden is also mesmerizing as the down-on-his-luck, yet affable, Oliver Lawless; he also plays it so well that I felt bad for him at times and hated him elsewhere. The writers and actors did a fine job developing these characters whose actions flow nearly flawlessly from their personalities.
Kathryn Hahn and Jeffrey Tambor also star as Dan’s lovely wife (and fellow former classmate of Oliver’s) and Dan’s behind-the-times boss, respectively; both of whom Dan deceives (for reasons that weren’t always entirely clear – one of the few flaws with this movie) on his mission to get Oliver, jeopardizing both his personal and professional relationships. Tambor is irresistibly funny. A few of Tambor’s scenes seemed like they were just included to give him extra screen time; which, it seems, the writers at least owned up to in the dialogue. Both Tambor and Hahn were great and had their moments to shine. Fans of one of Jack Black’s other hits might be happy to see Mike White in a minor role as one of the committee members that kind of, inadvertently, antagonize Dan.
The story is poignant, funny, emotionally charged, and mostly believable. Who can’t relate to wanting to be popular at some point in their lives? It is human nature (certainly Dan’s nature) to want to be connected to others; be it a few close friends/family or a whole crowd of strangers; even going to nearly psychotic lengths to get there. There is also some profound subtext about jumping to conclusions and not judging people or situations based on appearance. This is a fun movie with some unexpected twists and a lot of heart.
This is The D Train.