High school reunions can suck. Often, people who were popular have found that life has been much rougher in the wake of graduation. And people who weren't popular often think they were cooler than they really were. That's essentially the premise of The D Train, a sharp comedy written and directed by Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel. It opens Friday at the Cedar Lee Theatre.
Dan Landsman (Jack Black), the self-appointed chair of his high-school reunion committee, has trouble convincing anyone to come to his 20th reunion. But when he sees a national TV ad featuring Oliver Lawless (James Marsden), a guy he claims to have been best buddies with, he thinks that if Oliver comes to the reunion, the rest will follow. "It's like one of those bullshit charity campaigns," he says.
So he sends the guy an informal email that he signs "D Rock" and he grows a soul patch so that he'll appear cooler than he really is. And he lies to his boss about needing to go to L.A. for business as he takes a trip out West to find the guy. The two meet up at a trendy L.A. nightclub and Dan proceeds to remind Oliver about the glory days of high school. Even though they weren't really friends in high school, they bond and become drinking buddies, hitting one club after another. At some point, Oliver confesses that he's bisexual. Dan doesn't think much of it, but when Dan crashes at Oliver's place after one night of heaving drinking, the two get hot and heavy. While that forms the film's dramatic center, it seems rather far-fetched that Dan, who's happily married with kids and rather conservative, would go to such lengths to get Oliver to like him. Of course, nothing good comes out of their tryst and Dan is forced to take a good look at himself to see why he's so insecure.
Much like he did in Bernie, a film that earned him a Golden Globe nomination, Black adroitly balances comedy and drama. Though he can't seem to help but break into his signature move (raising his eyebrows in that exaggerated manner) and too often flaunts his portly figure, he does some serious acting as he plays a flawed character searching for answers.