I have never attended a high school reunion, for my high school is very far away, and quite frankly, there are a few too many douchebag classmates I fear may have become super-duper douchebags over the years. Sorry, but I just can’t share a punch bowl with some of those tools. I mean, one of those shitheads put my winter coat in the boys’ locker room toilet. That’s hard to get over!
I have, however, seen many high school reunion movies, and The D Train is one of the better ones. It strays from the formula in quite a few ways while also having fun with some of the clichés. It possesses a completely original twist, and the film has a refreshing pitch from all involved, especially stars Jack Black and James Marsden.
Dan Landsman (Black) is the self-proclaimed chairman of his school’s reunion committee. (Hey, he has the password to the Facebook page!) He takes the gig very seriously, much to the chagrin of his co-members, which include his School of Rock co-star Mike White. Dan wasn’t very popular during his high school days, and those same classmates aren’t all that crazy about him now. When the group finishes an evening of phone calls to alumni, they go out for beers—and forget to invite Dan.
One night, after a typically humdrum evening with his wife, Stacey (the always fun Kathryn Hahn), Dan spies a commercial for Banana Boat sunscreen that has a familiar face in it: It’s Oliver Lawless (Marsden), the coolest kid from his high school—and he has apparently made the big time out in Los Angeles.
Dan makes it his mission to get Oliver to attend the reunion. After all, everybody would want to attend, because, hey, the national Banana Boat spokesman is going to be in the house! Oliver’s attendance will make Dan a hero, and he’ll finally get that dose of high school popularity that has been eluding him. He concocts a scheme to fly to Los Angeles on his workplace’s dime, which results in his boss (Jeffrey Tambor, in fine form) unwelcomingly going with him. (This brings us the added bonus of a mini road comedy with Black and Tambor!)
In Los Angeles, Dan meets up with Oliver, and they have a wild night on the town. We’ll just say that some things happen and leave it at that. Oliver agrees to attend the reunion—but Dan no longer thinks that’s the best of ideas.
The movie is just fine leading up to the L.A. trip, but it really takes off afterward. Black is hilarious as a man dealing with some emotional situations. He’s an adult now, and he will no longer be shunned like that stumbling kid was in his high school halls. He’s going to take a stand—and Oliver is going to pay. Of course, Oliver has a few tricks of his own up his sleeve. His ability to put a high school geek in his place hasn’t waned over the years, and both men take things to an unavoidable climax at the reunion. They provide the material for one major Facebook scandal.
Marsden hasn’t been this great since he played the Prince in Enchanted. His Oliver has selfish, dickish qualities, but there seems to be good heart lurking beneath all that sunscreen. He and Black make for a great screen pairing; their every moment onscreen provides combustible goodness. Much credit goes to writer-directors Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul for making the characters seem very real, no matter how outlandish the situations become.
This film is taking a beating, and that mystifies me. It’s funny; it’s original; and it has a killer cameo from Dermot Mulroney. It also features Black and Marsden at the top of their games. When this comes out on video, it will make for a helluva double feature with Grosse Pointe Blank.
The D Train is playing at theaters across the valley.