Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny Review
Well here it is – the history of The D: an act who started out many years ago and gained notoriety toward the end of the nineties, since then rocking our fucking socks off with their own brand of metal, acoustic and classical rock fusions.
Of course there’s a little embellishment in Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny. After spending the entirity of his teen years travelling to Hollywood, since being belittled by his devout christian father (Meatloaf), Jack arrives in town seeking fame and fortune. No sooner does he arrive that he witnesses the single greatest act of rocking out in the form of busking Kyle Gass. After initial disappointment, when Kyle informs him that he doesn’t wish to shred with him, Jack finds himself cold and alone as he walks the empty, dark streets of L.A. When he’s jumped on by a gang of droogs (A Clockwork Orange homage) his and Kyle’s paths soon cross again and thus begins their rise to rock glory. Taking Jack under his wing Kyle proceeds to teach him the ways of the guitar and Jack blindly follows every bit of his advice. But Kyle isn’t all that he’s cracked up to be and soon the newly formed band find themselves broke and with no way of paying the rent; furthermore they fail to rock as hard as their idols and wonder just what it was that those bands possessed which clearly The D do not. There is, however, a solution. They learn of a magical pick, born from the tooth of Satan, that went from generation to generation, inspiring rock legends such as Jimmy Plant and Dio and just happens to now reside in the Rock and Roll Museum. Jack and Kyle decide to form a plan and capture the POD for themselves, thus leading us into a new dawn with their awesome rock powers.
Having failed to ignite the small screen with their short-lived HBO series Jack Black and Kyle Gass attempt to rekindle their Tenacious D screen relationship with the far grander Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny. Not only does it prove to be a brave move from a movie standpoint, but I imagine that it’s also a gamble in bringing to the big screen a band that not many people might know about. The D sure does have its fair share of fans, but it’s more amongst a smaller circle of admiring music lovers than a wider mainstream collective, which isn’t a bad thing by any means. Indeed the film, then, feels like it struggles from start to finish, trying too hard to reach a wider audience with some fairly insipid writing, while equally trying to provide many nods toward the adoring fan base. So the term hit and miss is quite apt here; Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny can be easily broken down in terms of what works and what doesn’t.
Director Liam Lynch directs in a rather flat style throughout most of the feature, where he lets JB and KG take over and make up for the lack of innovation in the photography department. Sure enough the camerawork does it’s job, but even so not even the level of writing saves our two stars from what might be the biggest disappointment of their careers; interestingly enough we see Kyle sporting a t-shirt with “Train Wreck” – his own personal project separate from The D – which is almost too profound to be true. While Jack Black and Kyle Gass are both very funny men, famous for their disgraceful mouths and satirically charged lyrics, they seem perfectly suited to entertaining through music. As screen writers (alongside Liam Lynch), being away from what they do best, they don’t possess the same kind of understanding in bringing to life a comedy feature. The plot here is inconsequential, with only the journey being of utmost importance. Therefore we expect to witness a slew of riotous set pieces which compliment the ridiculous nature of the film. Instead we’re delivered an almost embarrassing run of skits which only ever border on being mildly amusing; only the fucking annoying teen girls with their boyfriends who wouldn’t stop chatting through the entire film in the cinema I attended laughed out loud a few times in regards to some tired visual gags. JB and KG try hard to make the most of their weak material, but it often feels half-arsed and never reaches the amazing heights of the humour displayed in their debut album, and even their latest which ties in with this release. It must be said that they also recycle a few familiar gags, which are merely throw away items and will be easily picked up by fans, but other moments amount to little more than fart gags and frolicking with Sasquatch, with other areas lacking the sheer audaciousness and daring qualities that KG and JB can so easily pull off if they try. If you’re already familiar with the HBO shorts that feature on the excellent Complete Masterworks then you’ll know what to expect. The general feeling is that we’ve seen it all before.
This brings us to the music which frequents much of the movie and proves to be the only time when things truly come alive. It’s in watching Black and Gass perform that we develop a far greater appreciation for what it is they do, and sure enough the accompanying rock tracks are the main draw. This brings both bad and good points. The bad, to some degree, is that if you’ve heard the excellent tie-in album prior to seeing the film then you’ve experienced all the best that it has to offer. The good is that there are plenty of fun visuals which match the lyrics and provide a lot of smile inducing moments. The music segments are incredibly lively and manage to raise the film above board; some of them offer nice homage pieces, while others feel like extensions of earlier works, such as the “Tribute” video, which was also directed by Lynch. “Break in City”, in which we see Jack storming the Rock and Roll Museum is brilliant fun as he sings the very actions he partakes in and “Car Chase City”, which visually feels like a Blues Brothers homage is also highly entertaining. The intro segment “Kickapoo” sets up our hopes high with Meatloaf joining in the festivities while a very effective Troy Gentile (who also played young Jack in Nacho Libre) stands in for the younger JB. Equally Dave Grohl, who reprises his role as Satan for the final showdown injects a lot of life into the closing act, which fuelled by some superb lyrics pertaining to KG’s foreseen rape in Hell. I really can’t fault the quality here; I love The D as an act and it pains me that this film is so horribly average and has to rely on the music in order to prevent it from becoming instantly forgettable
In terms of performances it’s kind of what we expected. Interestingly enough Jack Black plays down his familiar D persona, with Kyle Gass reaping the rewards of being the highly egotistical player early on, before settling down to his usual self. Both get on with things as per usual and the material is evenly distributed, with neither performer outshining the other. The general tone of the film though tends to shift as the relationship is explored deeper and falls foul to a number of clichéd plot devices, such as the initial introduction and inevitable parting of ways, which can only be rectified through a mutual respect and ultimate showdown. It’s all very run of the mill, but it must also be noted that it’s not entirely played for laughs. Jack and Kyle have a great chemistry and their deep bond shows; the film gets a little poignant at times but not enough to put us off, and both actors perform admirably in channelling different emotions. Those two are given factors, while some of the other actors involved do little to improve things. There are cameo appearances ahoy, with Meatloaf, Tim Robbins, Ben Stiller, Ronnie James Dio, David Grohl and John C. Reilly entering the fold and these prove to be a mixed bag. Meatloaf, Dio and Grohl work rather well, while Stiller does his usual shtick and Robbins provides a painful performance, while Reilly has to parade around, unrecognisable as a Sasquatch. Finally Jason reed as their oft mentioned biggest fan Lee is a nice addition and a welcome return since his appearance in the HBO episode “The Fan”.
It took a long time to surface, having gone into production in 2005, and the fans waited with baited breath. We knew way in advance not to take the “Greatest film ever made” blurb seriously, but in post witnessing Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny one wonders if JB and KG knew that their film really wasn’t that great. Jack Black and Kyle Glass are wonderful performers and they write wonderful lyrics, but somehow their creative juices ceased to flow when it came down to padding out the film’s slight plot. The plotting shouldn’t have mattered at all; it was only ever going to be about the situations. In the end it’s a shame and a great disappointment for even fans of The D, of which I consider myself to be. In summary - the script is flat but the music is simply awesome. I’ll be off to see the boys play this December at the NEC and I hope that it’ll be much more of a kick-ass gig than what I just sat through this afternoon.
With that said I’m off now to take in the album once more.
Edit: It was a kick-ass gig.
Last updated: 16/06/2018 04:38:24