Review: THE D-TRAIN with Jack Black and James Marsden - Sundance 2015

You know those people you went to high school with who are still reliving the "glory days?" The ones who know what every single member of your graduating class is up to these days? The character Dan Landsman (Jack Black) in the movie The D-Train is one such guy. Living in the town he grew up in, and married to his high school sweetheart, Dan is the over-zealous head of his high school reunion committee. Fueled by a lack of enthusiasm mixed with a desire to fit in with his former classmates, Dan becomes determined to get the most popular guy from school and the star of a Banana Boat commercial, Oliver Lawless (James Marsden), to come to the reunion.

This is a movie that starts out like any other well-told story about a guy trying to fit in with his (former) classmates, but quickly takes a comically dark turn for the worse when Dan lies to his boss and flies to L.A. under the pretenses of a business trip in order to persuade Lawless to go to the reunion.

Riding the fine line that dark comedy so often does, The D Train does an excellent job of making you laugh at and simultaneously feel sorry for Dan and his sad attempts to finally become popular at last.

The best part about The D Train is not how funny it is, nor is it James Marsden in his underwear. The best thing about this movie is how true to life it really is. How each and every character is somebody everyone knows. This movie, though it is a comedy, is a brutally harsh portrayal of how our lives can be affected by a few short but crucial years - why some choose to stay after graduation, and why many of us choose to get as far away as possible.

Here's the synopsis:

Dan Landsman is the overly enthusiastic head of his high school reunion committee and also the group's laughingstock. To impress his so-called friends, he vows to convince their most famous former classmate—Oliver Lawless, the star of a national Banana Boat TV commercial—to attend the reunion to increase attendance. Dan travels to Los Angeles and spins a web of lies, igniting an intoxicating excitement for the first time in his humdrum life. In exchange for Oliver's precarious friendship, Dan sacrifices his relationships with his wife, son, and boss, and loses himself in his obsession for approval and recognition.

In their bold directorial debut, Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul tell the story of a man desperate to fit in at nearly any cost. Jack Black's Dan Landsman is both lovable and pathetic in his quest to prove his self-worth to others. As played by James Marsden,Oliver's charm and good looks are alluring, yet his vanity and apathy are dangerously manipulative. These surprisingly relatable characters remind us that our desire for social acceptance goes way beyond adolescence and can plague us well into adulthood.
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