State of the reunion
I have never attended a high school reunion, for my high school is very far away, and, quite frankly, there’s just a few too many Long Island, New York, douchebags from the mid '80s that I fear have become super-duper douchebags here in the now. 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 boy’s 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 having fun with some of the clichés as well. It possesses one completely original twist and is played at a refreshing pitch by 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 their Facebook page.) He takes the gig very seriously, much to the chagrin of his co-members, which include his School of Rock costar Mike White. Dan wasn’t very popular in his high school days, and his classmates still aren’t all that crazy about him. 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 their reunion, so everybody would want to attend because, hey, the national Banana Boat spokesman is going to be in the house. Oliver attending will make Dan a hero, and he’ll finally have that dose of high school popularity that has been eluding him all of these years. 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 L.A., Dan hooks up with Oliver, and they have a wild night on the town. We’ll just say some things happen, and leave it at that. Oliver agrees to attend the reunion, with Dan no longer thinking it’s the best idea.
The movie is just fine leading up to the L.A. trip, but it really takes off afterwards, and Black is hilarious as a man dealing with some unknown territories and emotional situations. He’s an adult now, and he will no longer be shunned like that stumbling kid in the 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 playing the Prince in Enchanted. His Oliver has selfish dick qualities, but there seems to be good heart lurking beneath all that sunscreen. He and Black make for one of the year’s greater screen pairings, with their every moment on screen providing 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 one is taking a bit of a critical 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.