DanViews: The Pick of Destiny
It truly saddens me how “Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny” has barely been a blip on our collective radar. We’d been waiting for a Tenacious D movie for so very long that it just kind of faded from our collective minds. And now that it was finally upon us, I hadn’t heard so much as a sentence from anyone about it.
To think that we used to gather in smoke-filled apartments to anxiously await each new episode of the short-form HBO series which immediately followed “Mr. Show with Bob and David.” Those were television EVENTS. We laughed so hard, could not believe that these guys were the real deal. We knew Jack Black as the guy who starred in “Jeepers Creepers Superstar,” on Mr. Show, and had never heard of Kyle Gass. I remember sitting back and saying, “Whoa, that guy’s gonna be a star.” The first grunge/slacker leading man. A pot-bellied, sweet-faced ball of volcanic energy.
I remember freaking out that we saw Kyle at Denny’s, remember going to more than one D concert (which were often nightmarish experiences due to the standing-room-only collection of dregs that amassed) and being such fans that we converted all the HBO episodes to .mp3 files to play on our computers (no ipods back then – and movies only cost nine dollars.)
But since then something kind of diluded the mystery of the D. The show went off the air for a very long time, the D disappeared as Jack Black made cameos in “The Cable Guy” and failed pilots (turned cult hits) like “Heat Vision and Jack”, eventually on his way to becoming a bankable movie star.
We never really saw any of the members of Spinal Tap take on new personas through the rest of their acting careers. Sure, Guest has made (and appeared in) his string of movies, and Michael McKean turns up here and there. But nothing ever really came along to dilute Spinal Tap (except their own attempts at tv specials and the like, but even those seem to fit the band’s mystique.) To this day, in my mind, nothing has ever betrayed the “reality” of Spinal Tap as a band.
Whereas Jack Black has gone from JB of Tenacious D to become a star of many comedies, most of them family-driven. His appearance in King Kong was something of a distraction, and while he remains quite a talented guy, I think the “Jack Black energy” has started to wear a little thin.
So now that JB finally hit the big screen with a D movie, we almost saw it as a sequel to SHALLOW HAL, rather than the long-awaited event it would have been 5 years ago. And it didn’t help that the previews focused mainly on slapstick, and appeared to have the overall look of a television sitcom – one of those uniformly-lit comedies starring teenage nobodies going on a road trip or Rob Schneider pretending to be a carrot.
Anyway, I braved the theatre in FLA during Thanksgiving holiday, a flu bug slowly turning my system to jelly and caught a showing of THE PICK OF DESTINY.
I had already ordered the album and was wearing the T-shirt (all good fanboys preorder everything) if only to promote the D and their website. When the lights went down I was prepared to be disappointed…
But I wasn’t. The first ten minutes of Pick of Destiny rock so fucking hard that it makes a promise impossible to fulfill for the rest of the movie. Telling the story of how a young JB rebelled against his parents and left home to fulfill his destiny, the sequence evokes Twisted Sister, the rock opera TOMMY, and features kick-ass cameos by Meat Loaf and Dio.
What a great start — from here, I expected a full-on Blues Brothers style ride. Songs throughout and constant cameo appearances by rock legends who play roles in the film.
But while the movie does indeed keep up the pace of songs – and the entire narrative is peppered with Tenacious D riffs that move the story chapters along, it still falls a little flat, mostly due to the lackluster direction by Liam Lynch. As with the musical sequences in Sarah Silverman’s “Jesus is Magic,” Liam lacks either the imagination (or to be fair, the budget) to really squeeze much production value out of these sequences.
Which is not to say there isn’t some true fun here. JB eats mushrooms and trips with Sasquatch (John C. Reilly, reprising his role from the HBO series) and in one dream sequence the D rock so hard they blow a man’s mind. And of course, they take on Satan (Dave Grohl) and we actually get to hear the “greatest song in the world” that the infamous D song “Tribute” was based on….
(though if you ask me it would have been brilliant to forever let that song be a mystery)
Essentially the Pick of Destiny feels like one long version of the HBO show and that’s a good thing. It has appearances by Lee (friend to the D) and Ben Stiller (who also produced the movie). The songs are hardcore and considering how much low-brow humor is here (How many times do “fuck” and “cock” make for great lyrics before you get bored?) you will laugh your ass off pretty much from start to finish.
So though I’m taking shots at this movie for not being just a little bit MORE of a rock epic than it is, I gotta say, the D delivers. And sadly, it doesn’t seem to be making any box office. I think people might have had a little much of Jack Black after “Nacho Libre,” and that this movie just came along a few years too late.
I fear the same for “The Simpsons MOVIE,” which also seems to me to be striking theatres far after the iron has cooled.
Anyway, if you haven’t seen it – go buy a ticket. I still feel like Tenacious D are a unique and fun band who deserve great success — like Spinal Tap there is true, musical talent beneath the humor. The real cool thing is that even though these are live-action cartoon characters who behave like stooges — you can’t say they don’t fucking rock the house down with the best of ’em.