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The D Train: Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

The D Train (2015) movie poster The D Train

Theatrical Release: May 8, 2015 / Running Time: 101 Minutes / Rating: R

Writers/Directors: Jarrad Paul, Andrew Mogel

Cast: Jack Black (Daniel Gregory Landsman), James Marsden (Oliver Lawless), Kathryn Hahn (Stacey Landsman), Jeffrey Tambor (Bill Shurmur), Russell Posner (Zach Landsman), Henry Zebrowski (Craig), Kyle Bornheimer (Randy), Mike White (Jerry), Corrina Lyons (Lucy), Donna Duplantier (Taj), Charlotte Gale (Renina), Denise Williamson (Alyssa), Han Soto (Dale Harkin), Danielle Greenup (Heather), Dermot Mulroney (Himself), Nicole Barre (Holly James)

Buy The D Train from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD DVD Instant Video

Jack Black was one of the lucky few actors headlining mainstream comedy films throughout the Noughties. Between Shallow Hal, School of Rock, and Nacho Libre, he had enough solo hits to justify that status, but after the box office disappointments of Year One and Gulliver's Travels, the Jack Black vehicle kind of fell out of fashion.
There is DreamWorks' Kung Fu Panda franchise, a voiceover gig that incorporates Black's personality and physicality more than most. And though it doesn't look too promising, if the upcoming Goosebumps cashes in on '90s nostalgia, it could thrust Black back into high-profile wide releases.

If not, there are always independent films. Black has made a few of those with esteemed writer-directors: Noah Baumbach's Margot at the Wedding, Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind, and Richard Linklater's Bernie, the most recent and well-received of those three. Black's latest indie film, The D Train, aimed to be more than that. Perhaps somehow inspired by the breakthrough success of Linklater's Boyhood, which grossed over $25 million while remaining around long enough to compete for major Oscars, IFC extended their widest opening ever to D Train, giving it an over 1,000 theater count on the second weekend of May in between the openings of Avengers: Age of Ultron and the tandem of Pitch Perfect 2 and Mad Max: Fury Road.

Black is a familiar face. He's hosted the Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards three times, the MTV Movie Awards once, and been recognized by those and comparable other people's choice honors. He even commands some respect in the industry, having held a lead role in Peter Jackson's bloated 2005 King Kong remake. But even someone as liked as Black was bound to struggle to give D Train mainstream appeal.

In "The D Train", Dan Landsman (Jack Black) is thoroughly embarrassed in a 20-year high school reunion that goes altogether different from how he imagined.

The directorial debut of writing duo Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel (Yes Man), this R-rated comedy centers on Dan Landsman (Black), a consulting firm employee and the self-proclaimed chairman of Grant Barklidge High School's alumni committee. Dan and the others from the Class of '94 are actively planning their 20-year reunion and finding it difficult to garner much interest.

Then, late one night, Dan sees a commercial for Banana Boat sunscreen starring Oliver Lawless (James Marsden), the coolest guy from their class. He decides if Oliver attends the reunion, the rest of the classmates will follow. To persuade the actor, Dan invents a business opportunity requiring a trip to Los Angeles. Exploiting the technological ignorance of his old-fashioned boss (Jeffrey Tambor), who joins him on the trip, Dan then sneaks off with Oliver, who barely remembers him. The two enjoy a rowdy night on the town that involves muscle relaxants, bumps of cocaine, and a Dermot Mulroney sighting. In all this excitement, this instant bromance quickly develops into a romance, with the bisexual Oliver initiating a kiss that leads to full-on sexual intercourse.

The encounter leaves family man Dan feeling strange. He tries talking Oliver out of attending the reunion, but it's too late, making for an awkward experience as Oliver stays with Dan's wife (Kathryn Hahn) and son (Russell Posner), providing the latter with some sex advice as the 14-year-old claims to be on the verge of a threesome. The reunion Dan envisioned with himself the hero who got the accomplished cool guy to return home plays out quite a bit differently in reality.

A national Banana Boat commercial starring Oliver Lawless (James Marsden) catches the eye and DVR of his high school classmate Dan Landsman.

It is not your typical Hollywood movie that pivots on gay sex. The world may grow more tolerant every day, but sex and homosexuality continue to make people uncomfortable. There is nothing in the marketing to make you expect such a turn. Black played gay in Bernie and portrayed Jesus in the 2008 musical online short condemning Prop 8,
the California amendment that would rule same-sex marriage illegal for a few years. But neither he nor Marsden are gay or gay icons. That may be the point. Neither actor's character identifies as gay and Dan especially seems ill-suited for such a lifestyle. The development is unexpected and tough to process for the involved parties and viewers alike.

Paul and Mogel haven't exactly sorted out how to present this scenario either. The D Train becomes a very different movie after the midway point's anal coitus. This uncool family man trying to repair his reputation is now an adulterer with a hunky womanizing bachelor who is instantly over the incident. Though versed in studio fare, the writers-directors bring an indie sensibility to the project, embracing the messy subversion. The movie loses something as it shifts gears from strained reunion planning to personal fallout and its efforts to merge the two threads disappoint. The film's initial goal to entertain devolves into merely attempting to shock and surprise.

Though Black, who last month turned 46, seems a bit old to be attending his 20-year high school reunion, the movie also seems to hold zero affection towards 1994 (a time when Jarrad Paul was doing recurring guest roles on network sitcoms), preferring to run with pop songs of the '80s and a score that sounds like it's from the same era. It's a strange contrast to other high school reunion comedies, like the '80s-nostalgic 1997 comedies Grosse Pointe Blank and Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, both of which D Train compares unfavorably.

One admires Black for tackling something challenging despite his spotty track record in indies. One appreciates Marsden, too often taken for granted comedically, seizing a meaty lead role, even if it's an unlikable one. Still, one does not come away from The D Train feeling like the cast and crew all hit their marks or even came all that close. This indie is unpredictable and daring, but ultimately unfulfilling and not all that amusing.

IFC's decision to open Sundance-premiered The D Train in more theaters than all but one of their films had ever occupied (the lightning in a bottle word-of-mouth blockbuster My Big Fat Greek Wedding) proved to be misguided. The film opened in 19th place with a pitiful $447 thousand first weekend gross. The performance was among the 20 worst of all time for films released between 600 and 2,000 theaters. D Train lost nearly 90% of its theaters on its second weekend (which is unusual, given that most studios require theaters to book a two-week engagement). The film quickly left theaters with less than $700 thousand and the stench of commercial failure to its name.

The D Train gets another chance to find an audience in this month's DVD and Blu-ray + Digital HD releases distributed by Paramount as part of a limited arrangement with IFC.

The D Train Blu-ray Disc cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($29.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

The D Train may not rival bigger budget fare in the feature presentation department, but the Blu-ray's 2.40:1 picture and 5.1 DTS-HD master audio still satisfy thoroughly. The latter is plagued by some steep peaks and low valleys, which is, as usual, an annoying design.

James Marsden ruins a take with laughter in the gag reel. Jack Black breaks out the dance moves in this shirtless deleted scene.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray is equipped with two HD bonus features.

First up is a gag reel (3:38),
which preserves laughter-generating cast blunders, most of them from Black.

The other inclusion is deleted scenes, of which there are eight (7:05). They include multiple scenes of silent Jack Black dancing and a couple of additional moments with Dan's teenaged son.

The silent, static menu is adapted directly from the cover art. Though the Blu-ray does not resume unfinished playback, it does allow you to set bookmarks on the film.

The one insert accompanying the plain blue disc inside the unslipcovered keepcase is a sheet supplying your Digital HD with UltraViolet code and instructions.

"The D Train" channels "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" with a strangely heartfelt, closure-supplying reunion of Oliver Lawless (James Marsden) and Dan Landsman (Jack Black).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The D Train gives Jack Black and James Marsden something different. But, despite some promise at its start, the movie's surprises derail it as a comedy and leave you feeling little of anything towards it. Light on extras and appeal, Paramount's Blu-ray is one you wouldn't feel bad missing.

Buy The D Train from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Jack Black: Margot at the Wedding Tropic Thunder Year One The Big Year Gulliver's Travels Kung Fu Panda
James Marsden: Accidental Love Enchanted Hop Robot & Frank Death at a Funeral
Kathryn Hahn: Our Idiot Brother Step Brothers How Do You Know This Is Where I Leave You
Reunions: Grosse Pointe Blank 10 Years Romy and Michele's High School Reunion Peggy Sue Got Married
Written by Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel: Yes Man | New to Blu-ray: Boulevard Mad Max: Fury Road Hot Pursuit
Men, Women & Children I Love You Phillip Morris I Love You, Man

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Reviewed September 8, 2015.



Text copyright 2015 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2015 IFC Films, Stage 6, Ealing Studios, Electric Dynamite, Rip Cord, Londinium, and Paramount Home Entertainment.

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