THE D TRAIN (UK | USA/15A/101mins)
Directed by Jarrad Paul & Andrew Mogel. Starring Jack Black, James Marsden, Kathryn Hahn, Jeffrey Tambor, Mike White
THE PLOT: Dan (Jack Black) is a man who has been settled in his suburban life since he left college. Married with two lovely children, but saddled with a job that seems to be stuck in a bygone era, Dan throws all his energy into making his 20 year high school reunion the best it can be. The trouble is that almost all of his former classmates are determined not to attend, so when Dan spots Oliver Lawless (James Marsden) in a TV commercial, he sets out to get him to attend the reunion – and convince everyone else to go – no matter the cost.
THE VERDICT: Although it is billed as a comedy, ‘The D Train’ feels rather more like a mid life crisis drama, with some awkwardness and chuckles thrown in. Jack Black is on fine form as the mild mannered and rather lost Dan; it seems that he does not quite know how he found himself so deep in suburbia, and hankers for everything in his life to be perfect. Although Dan makes some pretty questionable choices throughout the film, Black always manages to keep audience sympathy with the character as his life spirals out of control. Black also manages to make the rather twee ending almost work, and showcases his ability to mix comedy and drama throughout ‘The D Train’.
James Marsden, as the handsome and seemingly successful Oliver Lawless brings charm and a desperation to the role. Lawless seems to have his life together in a way that Dan does not, but it soon becomes clear that Dan is simply raising Oliver onto a pedestal. Marsden keeps the character grounded and allows the audience to see the pain and struggles that Dan cannot. Jeffrey Tambor has a small but perfectly timed performance as Dan’s boss Bill, and Kathryn Hahn plays Dan’s wife Stacey.
Screenwriters Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel have tried to create a dark comedy about a mid life crisis in’ The D Train’, but leave the comedy to fall by the wayside in this examination of love and expectations. The script is carried by the performances from the cast and, although there are some twists and turns throughout the film, it seems that the writers had a strong idea for the film, but no real idea how to end their story.
As directors Mogel and Paul are competent for the most part, but the film struggles through some uneven pacing, and has a rather odd tone from time to time. The actors are well directed, so the issues in the film seem to stem from an uncertain script, rather than weak direction. Elsewhere however, Andrew Dost of Fun.’s soundtrack is infectious and catchy.
In all,’ The D Train’ could well be a strong examination of the crises we find ourselves facing in life, and the nature of love. Due to a muddled script and some messy pacing however, the film is less than the sum of its parts. Black, Marsden, Tambor and Hahn are on fantastic from however, and a stronger script and a stronger ending could have made ‘The D Train’ a great film instead of a good one.
RATING: 3.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

The D Train
Review by Brogen Hayes
3.5Slightly muddled
  • filmbuff2011

    Beginning rather confusingly with the distinctly British Ealing Studios logo, American high school reunion comedy / drama The D Train aims to please, but misses the target by a mile. Thirtysomething Dan (Jack Black) is heading up the high school reunion committee, trying to get everyone from the class of 1994 back together again. Getting confirmed names is proving difficult. That is, until he runs across a cheesy commercial featuring Oliver (James Marsden). Oliver was the hot-shot of the class, the most popular guy in school. If Dan can convince Oliver to come to the reunion, then hopefully everyone else will follow suit. Dan fakes a business trip to LA with his boss Bill (Jeffrey Tambor) and gets in touch with Dan. The two of them hang out and catch up on old times. Then something quite unexpected happens, which puts a barrier between them. Despite that, Oliver agrees to come to the reunion party. But can Dan hold everything else in his life together – including his own marriage? First-time directors Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul have a good stab at the familiar high school reunion story. There are a lot of good intentions here and the film does have its moments (e.g. a recurring joke about Dan’s son). But the film is actually less about a reunion and more about Dan and Oliver, so if you’re expecting something more emotional and nostalgic then you’ll be disappointed. The plot runs out of steam about half way through and limps towards an overly sentimental conclusion. Black and Marsden make good verbal sparring partners, but their characters are still sketchy at best. The D Train wants to be a better film, but it just isn’t. Instead, it’s just distinctly average and unremarkable. **