The directing debut of writer-director duo Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul, The D Train was declared D.O.A. after a mere week in May. A dark dramedy starring Jack Black and James Marsden, its theatrical showing was decimated in seven days, with over 90% of its 1000 screens dropping it.
Its stars may not be dynamite draws these days, but nor are they D-listers. So why did the audiences disdain to watch? Rare is the movie that dies to word of mouth or critical reviews in a single week. Perhaps it was due to a poor promotional trailer. But with its digital debut comes a new opportunity to discuss whether it deserved its direct deportation.
And did it? Definitely.
Black plays Dan, a devoted husband and Dad of two, and a deputy director at a diminutive agency of undetermined business. An unpopular dork in high school, Dan is nevertheless obsessed with the past, and is de-facto director of the reunion committee. With a dearth of desire to attend among the alumni, Dan discovers a drama geek made good and is featured in a national ad campaign. Dan decides the key to drum up attendance is to draw in Oliver Lawless (Marsden) and use the D-list star to drive recruitment.
Dan defrauds his boss to take a business trip to L.A. to reach Lawless directly. The duo hit it off and devote several days to debauchery, drugs, and drinking. When Dan returns home, Lawless is dedicated to the reunion, but Dan is a disaster. His deeds dominate his mind, and he is obsessed with Oliver. And his duplicities are beginning to come undone, damaging his relations with family and friends alike.
Doubtless a decent movie could have been borne out of this premise. The D Train does not deliver. As a drama, it lacks depth. Character development doesn’t happen; instead, deeds explode on the screen and are dealt with in a few lines at the end. Dan and Lawless don’t have the dispositions to deal with their dilemmas; a happy ending arrives directly regardless. Likewise, the duo aren’t dynamic enough for the audience to deign to show interest. As for humor, this dramedy is devoid of it. There are diverse moments where it is distinctly discernible that a laugh is desired, and yet the drollery is indisputably a dud, whether it be Dan’s inept reminiscing or Dan’s self-designated nicknames (of which the title is the last of dozens.)
It’s a difficult film to review as its chief demerit is one of deficiency. Destitute of depth or dynamism or dry wit, what remains is simply dull. And devoting any more effort to deride the dud is redundant.