D Train: Another Bromance (or Something More?) Starring Jack Black and James Marsden

This review contains spoilers

Ultra-movieish, the indie The D Train, co-written and co-directed by Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel, stretches to the limit the Odd Couple concept by casting the ever-likable Jack Black and the handsome James Marsden in the leads.

World-premiering at the Sundance Film Fest, the comedy was picked up for $3 million by IFC, which bows the film this weekend in 700 theaters.

Gimmicky to a fault, the serio comedy is based on one audacious, if utterly unbelievable idea, while the rest of the short narrative seems to wonder in search of direction and identity.

Black plays Dan, a nice (too smiling?) middle-aged man, who’s both a husband and a father but his mind seems to be set on one issue: orchestrating a great 20-year high school reunion, though the reason is never made clear.

To that extent, he goes to Los Angeles to corral Oliver Lawless (James Marsden), a TV commercials actor who once upon a time was the high school’s most popular boy.  Dan tricks his boss (the reliable Jeffrey Tambor) into flying him out there for some potential business, thus risking his livelihood and career if he gets caught.

The tale’s mid-section is sporadically engaging as yet another variation of the bromance genre. Star struck Dan goads Lawless into hanging out, and the latter surprises himself by realizing that he still needs Dan’s admiration.

The couple gets high, hit a strip joint, and gossip about the women that Lawless dated in high school.  What follows–a real hook up–proves shocking to the characters as well as us viewers.  The filmmakers use discretion by only showing kissing and then the inevitable morning-after scene

However, when Lawless comes to town for the reunion, Black gets jealous that Lawless isn’t paying enough attention to him.  From that point on, the slender plot, such as it is, goes downhill, losing (just like its central men) identity and focus.

The film, which is not grounded in any recognizable reality, wants to have it both ways, show sympathy (or at least empathy) for Black by asking us to feel sorry for him, while at the same time, offer a critique of his radical and ridiculous behavior.

Most mainstream Hollywood movies are predictable and sentimental, but we expect something more out of an indie comedy that promises to be wild and risque in contesting generic boundaries and challenging our perceptions.