Thursday, December 22, 2016

The D Train

Year 8, Day 357 - 12/22/16 - Movie #2,499

BEFORE: Jack Black carries over again from "Bernie" and his chain gets me ALMOST to the end of the year.  Tomorrow will be the last film of 2016, and we can wrap up this big movie fest, at least until January 1.  

I attended my own 30th high-school reunion, back after Thanksgiving, and sort of sat on the story until now, knowing this film was coming up on the list.  It was great to catch up with a few people I hadn't seen in a long time, but there were no really fantastic revelations, just that everyone there looked a lot older (except for me, of course...).  I spoke with 6 or 7 women at the event, which is probably a lot more than I talked to during the four years of high-school.  Hey, I was a late bloomer, I didn't really date until the last year of college.  I just thought of girls back then as a different species or something, I didn't really imagine that I had much in common with them or would be able to relate to them.  

But fast-forward 30 years and throw some alcohol into the mix, and things were a bit different.  Though at first everyone seemed to congregate back into those old cliques, which left me out in the cold again at first.  But eventually I was able to circulate around, and the three most common questions (after "How are you?") were "Are you married?" "What do you do for a living?" and "Are you still living in the area?"  Those seemed to work the best as conversation starters.  

I did get congratulated once or twice for my success, when people found out I was working in the film industry.  I must have mentioned this as a goal during my senior year or something, so some classmates were happy that I followed my dream and made it happen.  Umm, yeah, let's go with that.  And a kid who used to bully me turned out to be a computer tech genius now, that was probably the most surprising transformation I saw.  I caught up with the people who I wanted to catch up with, so I guess I have to consider that a win.  


THE PLOT: The head of a high school reunion committee travels to Los Angeles to track down the most popular guy from his graduating class and convince him to go to the reunion.

AFTER: This sort of fits right in with the "bad behavior" genre I was discussing the other night - when everyman Dan flies off to L.A. to track down a lost classmate (after seeing him in a suntan lotion commercial), he does so under the guise of lying to his boss and wife, who both believe he's out there to meet with a business client.  And one lie begets a second, then a third lie has to cover up the second one, and so on.  His technologically-impaired boss even tags along to help close the deal, so Dan has to enlist cool Oliver's help to fool the boss, and before long there's a whole web of lies.  

But for a while it looks like maybe the scheme's going to work, so Dan and Oliver hit the town for a night of debauchery, which involves a number of things that have ramifications, and are going to be very hard to explain down the road.  In a way this works, because the man who decides to lie to make himself look better ends up paying the price, and losing his dignity, and nearly losing his job and relationship as well.  

Like in "Bernie", Jack Black plays a character whose sexuality comes under question - is this just a developing bromance between Dan and Oliver, or is something else going on here?  Oliver made some references to dating women and men in L.A., so what's the deal?  I mean, it's great that we can now have characters that are open about this sort of thing, it gets people talking and accepting in the long run, but I wonder if using this sort of thing as a comedic complication really does the cause justice.  

Plus, you can't have it both ways.  Even if there were some kind of physical relationship between Dan and Oliver, the movie really can't decide if that would be good or bad.  So, it's OK to be out and proud about swinging both ways, but once that becomes public knowledge, suddenly it's something to be ashamed about?  It's like a screenwriter couldn't make up his mind, or was trying to serve two agendas. For the sake of the story, it's got to be one or the other. 

The funniest stuff here (to me, anyway) was probably the bits about Dan's Luddite boss, who didn't understand (and didn't WANT to understand) e-mail or the internet.  A few of those people are still out there, I know because I work for one of them.  The rumor is that my boss was being teched on a computer program, and when told that he should open a new window (on the computer) he got up from the desk, walked over to the office window, and opened it.  And I believe that story.  My mother's like this too, she says she wants to learn to use the computer, but she's got some kind of mental block that prevents it.  No lie, she called me once and asked me how to find Google.  Jeez, Ma, you don't "find" Google, you just GO there, and then you find other things!  So I guess senior citizens need some kind of search engine to help them find the search engines...

If you watch 4 Jack Black movies in a row, and I'm not saying that you should, you come to realize that he does sort of play the same character in every film - someone who's outgoing, loud and proud, but who's obviously that way to cover for his insecurities.  Maybe the actor is really like that, maybe not, but either way, he's become something of a one-note actor in that sense.  I guess it's really lucky that that's who his character in this film is supposed to be, but I think there are probably other times where Mr. Black could have or should have taken his characters in a different direction.

Also starring James Marsden (last seen in "The Butler"), Kathryn Hahn (last seen in "Tomorrowland"), Jeffrey Tambor (last seen in "The Hangover Part III"), Russell Posner, Mike White (last seen in "Zombieland"), Kyle Bornheimer (last seen in "The Big Wedding"), Henry Zebrowski, Han Soto (last seen in "Fantastic Four"), Denise Williamson, Danielle Greenup, with a cameo from Dermot Mulroney (last seen in "Sunset").

RATING: 4 out of 10 missing buttons

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