Black’s character Dan Landsman literally bent over to make sure Marsden’s Oliver Lawless would RSVP to their 20-year high school reunion in The D-Train, an off-beat comedy to say the least from the duo of Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogels. Said back-door scene was a quick cut in flashback sequence, but the point was driven home. Dan, who is even less popular today than he was in high school, will do anything to finally be a part of the in-crowd.
He is chair of a rag-tag reunion committee, which is having a difficult time getting former classmates to RSVP to their equally pathetic shindig. So he brags to his associates that not only was he a friend of the ever-popular Oliver (which is not what everyone else recollects), but he can also get him to come. And while the former statement is a tall tale, the latter is shockingly prophetic.
Needing to concoct an excuse to fly to Los Angeles and court Oliver, who has seemingly hit it big as the national spokesman for Banana Boat ad, Dan tells his boss Bill Shurmer (Jeffrey Tambor) that’s he worked up a deal with a big firm and needs to fly out and meet with the CEO to seal the deal. But he doesn’t bargain that Bill will insist he go, too. The web of deceit is woven, and Dan becomes so entangled in his desire to be accepted by his classmates 20 years too late that he soon questions everything he had once assumed about himself. The result is he nearly loses everything he holds dear for one last chance at social redemption.
The D-Train is that cautionary and uncomfortable tale that we should be careful what we wish for because we might just get it. It explores the theme of exclusion and how humankind thirst for acceptance to the point that we will do just about anything to be viewed as popular, if only for a fleeting moment. The film is also a parable of not all is what it seems to be, as we learn Oliver “peaked in 11th grade” and despite his cool façade suffers from the same low self-esteem as does Dan.
The D-Train is a guilty pleasure with Black at the reins, and I suspect many of you will give the film a chance for that very reason alone. Tambor lends refreshing innocence to counterbalance Marsden’s hedonism. But the story goes off the rails, literally in a couple of Hollywood party scenes, that by the end, once the melodrama that plays out, you are spent, and not in a good way. The film’s climax can either be roundly unbelievable or the worst nightmare possible, right up there with showing up to school in your underwear.
With that said, for Redbox night, my vote would be to still give it a chance, especially if you’ve seen all the other recent releases and you have nothing better to do — and the kids are asleep or at Grandma’s. They say the most innovative comedy goes for the jugular, sometimes gagging you in the process, and pursues the most taboo themes. While The D-Train does not aim so high, go into it with low expectations and you might just come away satisfied or at least not bored, and not cursing the two hours and $1.50 you just lost. Otherwise you’ll want to get off this train before it leaves the station.
My Redbox Vote: An okay use of $1.50, especially if you have no expectations. Be warned it only ranks one and a half star, which is pretty low for Redbox.
Rotten Tomatoes Vote: Critics give it 47%, which is a little higher than Redbox and even higher than the audience vote at 26%.