Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The D on DVD; Idiocracy

Jack Black was unknown to me until HIGH FIDELITY (2000). Spoiler alert: If you had never seen him until that movie, it makes his appearance performing at the end of the movie all the more unexpected and enjoyable.

I later caught up with a lot of Jack’s previous work in the D’s TENACIOUS D (1999-2000) and Odenkirk/Cross’s MR. SHOW WITH BOB AND DAVID (1995-1996)—both HBO series. I saw the six HBO TENACIOUS D episodes uncut on Comedy Central and watched them again on TENACIOUS D: THE COMPLETE MASTERWORKS. Brilliant stuff.

Jack’s work grew in wisdom and knowledge with SHALLOW HAL (2001) and THE SCHOOL OF ROCK (2003) but KING KONG (2005) fell short of too-high expectations and failed to propel Jack to superstar status. Regardless of the disappointment of KONG, siren comedy was always calling him back. He seemed poised to receive the comedy baton of destiny, in a long track stretching 100 years from Fatty Arbuckle to Oliver Hardy to Lou Costello to Jackie Gleason to John Belushi to John Candy to Sam Kinison to Chris Farley, and make a run at becoming America’s premier funny fat man of the 21st century [sorry Horatio Sanz].

I usually don’t like scatological stuff but like Damon Wayans said in his book BOOTLEG, his father didn’t like bad language unless it was funny. Yet I found TENACIOUS D: THE PICK OF DESTINY too disgustingly filthy to fully enjoy and too much like the six HBO shows to get what I think is a big part of Jack and partner Kyle Gass’s appeal—the surprise every time, like in HIGH FIDELITY, that these guys are really good entertainers.

My mother used to say the same thing about Buddy Hackett. “Why does he have to work blue?” She also liked it when Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops played a Beatle song--you could hear the melody without all the loud music.

The D are so much better than the bathroom humor. Has the toilet tank run dry or does the handle just need a jiggle? Jack and Kyle brought humor to a humorless musical genre [Weird Al and Zappa excepted] but enough already with the poop and the erection jokes.

The plot contains a TRUE WEST role switch at the end of Act I, a conceit so regularly stolen (see ADAPTATION for example) that no one remembers that Sam Shepard actually thought it up the first time. Gore Vidal had a similar complaint about the progeny of VISITOR TO A SMALL PLANETMork, My Favorite Martian, 3rd Rock, et al. Elaine May said it was too famous a play to have had an author.

Spoiler alert: The quest for a magic pick takes them to the Rock and Roll History Museum and a mysterious stranger, Tim Robbins, shows them how to break in to steal the pick. Jack meets Sasquatch in a mushroom haze, the boys beat the devil—the source of the pick and rock glory, but they never get to play open-mic night—the first-prize being the reason for stealing the pick in the first place.

This could have been a franchise. I can see The D, like Mr. Peabody and Boy, rocking through history and setting things straight. But the movie peters out as the two stoners try to remember that great song they were working on, the greatest song ever played.


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