‘The D Train’ is an uneven mix of comedy and drama

The D Train stars James Marsden and Jack Black.
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle

Three stars

The D Train Jack Black, James Marsden, Kathryn Hahn. Directed by Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel. Rated R. Opens Friday.

On its surface, The D Train appears to be a goofy comedy about a high school reunion organizer, Dan Landsman (Jack Black), who becomes obsessed with trying to persuade his class’ former Big Man on Campus, Oliver Lawless (James Marsden), to attend the upcoming 20-year reunion. Oliver is a struggling actor, but Dan sees him in a national TV commercial and assumes he’s hit the big time. Consequently, Dan fakes a business trip to LA to pitch the reunion to Oliver in person. Oliver barely remembers him, but he’s friendly enough. They drink. They party. They head back to Oliver’s place.

What happens at that point switches The D Train onto a more provocative and considerably less funny track. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—the jokes are replaced with genuine confusion and introspection, as Dan finds himself questioning his very identity. Black wasn’t the ideal choice for such a uniquely challenging role, however, and first-time writer-directors Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul have trouble navigating the wild tonal shifts their bold premise demands. At one point, the film verges on becoming downright offensive, simply because it’s trying to be serious and uproarious simultaneously. It’s a mess, but at least it’s a commendable mess.

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