There are two kinds of people—those who look forward and those who look back. Dan Landsman is definitely a rearview mirror kind of guy. As he gears up for his high school reunion, he will painfully illustrate why such a neurotic approach to life is so deeply unprofitable. Prepare to squirm when Landsman makes a last ditch effort for popularity twenty years after graduation in Jarrad Paul & Andrew Mogel’s D Train (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.
After college, Landsman stayed in the same Pittsburgh suburb, attending community college, taking an office job, and marrying the nicest girl from high school who would talk to him. At every meeting of the high school alumni committee, he offers up a textbook example of trying too hard. Smarting from the rejection he continues to invite, Landsman hatches an unlikely plan to convince Oliver Lawless to attend the reunion, so he can hopefully ride on his coattails of coolness.
Lawless was the sort of roguish popular kid everyone wanted to hang with. After graduation, he left for Hollywood, where he barely scrapes by on commercial work. However, Landsman and their fellow alumni see him as the embodiment of all their unfulfilled dreams and aspirations. Landsman will indeed trek out to California to woo Lawless, but the cover story he fabricates about a potential business meeting inconveniently blows up in his face when his technophobe boss, Bill Shurmur insists on accompanying him. Nevertheless, Landsman manages to meet-up with Lawless, but things get a little out of hand, with much awkwardness ensuing.
The good news is Lawless is coming to the reunion. The bad news is Lawless is coming to the reunion. Frankly, you may never see another film that so thoroughly confuses humiliation with humor. D Train is a truly a cringe fest. Anyone with a shred of empathy will be extremely uneasy watching Landsman’s degradation, but Paul & Mogel keep pouring it on. It gets to be punishing—for the viewer.
You have to give Jack Black credit for taking it and liking it. As Landsman, his desperate neediness is uncomfortably convincing. It makes you think he could do an entire postscript to Kevin Pollak’s Misery Loves Company by his lonesome. On the plus side, believe it or not, James Marsden turns some surprisingly nice moments as Lawless and it is always amusing to watch Jeffrey Tambor do his thing as Shurmur.