Film Festival Movie Review

Film Review: THE D TRAIN: Black and Marsden Impress [SFF 2015]

Jack Black James Marsden The D Train

The D Train (2015) Film Review from the 37th Annual Sundance Film Festival, a movie directed by Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel, starring Jack Black, James Marsden, Kathryn Hahn, Jeffrey Tambor, Mike White, and Kyle Bornheimer.

Meet Dan Landsman (Jack Black): husband, father, and chairman of his high school’s reunion committee. This year’s reunion promises to be a dud until Dan sees a commercial for Banana Boat sunscreen featuring the most popular guy from his high school class. With dreams in his head of adoration and newfound fame, off he jets to Los Angeles on his boss’ dime to lure Oliver Lawless (James Marsden) back home and transform the middling high school reunion into a smashing success.

Following a raucous, drug- and alcohol-fueled night in Los Angeles, however, things take a very unexpected turn between Dan and Oliver that threaten to unravel their friendship and leave the reunion without its star attraction.

Accompanied by subplots involving a threesome between three disobedient 14-year-olds (including Dan’s son, Zach, played by Russell Posner) and Dan’s technologically-illiterate boss (Jeffrey Tambor), the film offers a fresh and irreverent take on the bromantic comedy.

The film’s supporting cast bolsters a script that gives them room to breathe and exercise their comedic talents. Kathryn Hahn, as Dan’s wife, Stacey, offers a particularly complementary performance and offers a noticeable, strong female voice in a male-dominated film. Jeffrey Tambor offers some of the film’s most comedic moments as the blundering, old-school boss who is scammed over and over again as a result of Dan’s scheming.

But it is Marsden – who is given the best one-liners – who steals the film and really brings the shock value to the film. His Oliver is a character we’ve never seen before, a man’s man who rejects labels and isn’t afraid to admit his shortcomings or let his weaknesses show. He’s the high school quarterback with a flavoring of California surfer bum.

The best part of the film is that the audience can tell the cast is having fun – particularly Jack Black. His affinity for the role is clear, and, believe it or not, he exhibits a freedom that audiences haven’t seen from him before. His Dan is a lovable high school reject whose obsession with Oliver, which could border on creepy and uncomfortable, is actually endearing and convinces the audience to root for him despite his questionable behavior and tactics.

While not an instant classic like Bridesmaids, the film is better than your average comedy and deserves an audience that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Just make sure to leave the kids at home, as the film contains a heavy dose of language and sexual content; this film will definitely receive an R rating upon release.

The D Train is screening at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Dramatic Competition and has been picked up for distribution by IFC for an undisclosed sum, said to be in the “healthy” seven-figures, for wide theatrical release in the U.S. later this year.


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About the author

Drew Stelter

Drew is a 26-year-old film buff. A native Utahan, he attends the Sundance Film Festival annually. He is a member of the Salt Lake Film Society. In a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he attended the Oscars Red Carpet on March 2, 2014, after winning an essay contest through the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. At any given time he can be expected to be conversing via movie quote GIFs.

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