A misunderstood loser grasps at an opportunity to relive his high school years when he recruits the most popular kid in his class back to their high school reunion in the funny comedy, The D Train.
Dan Landsman (Jack Black) is stuck in time. Almost twenty years has passed and many of the slights he suffered in high school have impacted his adult life. He’s working in a small firm with his old-school boss, married with a teenage son, has low self esteem, has grown predictable and still has trouble fitting in with his peers. As his 20th Anniversary Class Reunion is coming up, Dan is feverishly working the phones as a part of the reunion committee having limited success.
One night while watching TV, he sees an ad for a suntan lotion commercial starring an old high school classmate, Oliver Lawless (James Marsden), who once was the most popular guy in his class. Idolizing the high school superstar, Dan is convinced that Oliver was his close friend and then the idea hits him – if he can get Oliver to attend the reunion, the rest of the class will follow.
Deceiving his boss, Kyle (Jeffrey Tambor) that he has found potential new business in Los Angeles, he flies out to meet Oliver and begins the process of trying to convince him to attend the festivities. After a long night of partying, Oliver places Dan in an awkward position but does agree to attend the reunion.
Upon returning home, Dan is racked with guilt because of his deception placing both his job and his family in jeopardy. But he is willing to live with all of that if some of the magic that he perceives that Oliver has can somehow rub off on him.
The directing debut of Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul, The D Train is a universal story of the pressures of high school and how some people never recover from those experiences. In addition, it is also a wonderful commentary on how some people peak in high school, while others flourish later in life.
Much like several films playing in this year’s Sundance Film Fest, The D Train has its share of raunchy scenes that succeed to great effect. Black and Marsden are both dealing with their own insecurities, with one’s insecurities living on the surface and the other’s hiding in plain sight. There is also an amusing subplot about Dan’s son who is dating an older high school girl which gives Dan another opportunity to pass his high school insecurities down to his son despite his marriage to a woman that loves him unconditionally, even with his warts.
In spite of his humbling beginning as a supporting player, Black’s performance as a starry-eyed obsessed fan who learns the hard way about placing people on a pedestal is an absolute winner. While the movie has plenty of light moments, watching Black being constantly humiliated poses an interesting dilemma for the audiences and their ability to root for a character that is so pathetic.
The end result is that despite laughing at the comical situations Dan finds himself in, you feel really bad that most of the jokes are at his expense – and he still doesn’t get it. I’m not really sure I’d like to ride “the train,” but it was truly a pleasure to watch!