25 July 2007 | pyrocitor
Love it or hate it, Black and Gass return to what they do best
Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny
The concept of writing a film review for the Tenacious D movie may seem slightly unnecessary, as just about anyone upon hearing about the film most likely already had a sense of whether or not it would interest them. Fans of the duo's rock-comedy album and cult classic television show, or the incessantly energetic Jack Black will have jumped at the prospect of an hour and a half of unfiltered Tenacious D madness, and those who generally would not gravitate towards such forms of entertainment will have already uttered a groan, and discounted any possibility of seeing the film. And while the film will prove highly entertaining for those who would normally take to this sort of thing, it falls short of being strong enough to win any fans outside of its existing demographic - those who were fans of Tenacious D already will be satisfied, but those previously unimpressed are unlikely to change their opinions very drastically after experiencing the film equivalent.
Director Liam Lynch seems for the most part content to sit back with a camera rolling, leaving Black and Gass free to do what they do best - namely pull the infectiously energetic and likable slacker rocker schtick which exposed them to the public eye in the first place. What is unfortunate is the consistent feeling that the material feels too watered down to really excel as a film and reach the full comedic potential the premise originally boasted. While the occasional comedic gem may float along, for the most part it feels like these occasional high points are too inundated in mediocre sequences to be truly memorable. It's hard to pinpoint exactly where the problem lies; in terms of content the film plays upon the same themes and plot points which made Tenacious D so crudely enjoyable in the first place, but the material feels a touch too familiar by this point, coming across as still enjoyable, but merely cute or chuckle worthy, rather than the real belly laughs which should have been evoked.
Another crucial component of the band's charm, the music, also sadly falls short of the duo's previous material. While the film boasts a superb opening sequence and song, explaining Black's oppressive religious home life, and his determination to break free and become a celebrated rocker, after the opening credits, the music sadly never rises above anything more than satisfactory. However, the orchestral music backing up the band's music at crucial plot points was an inspired touch, adding to the faux 'epic' feel to the pair's overzealous quest, as do the tarot card transitions between plot points - another clever touch. Traits like these are what make the film ultimately rise above mediocre, and add style and class to what otherwise might have fallen apart at the seems if not packaged effectively.
While the film is unquestionably centered around Black and Gass themselves, while both are sufficiently entertaining to carry the film even though its weaker points simply by their raucous charm, neither can boast the film to be among their most comedic or entertaining performances to date. And while none of the background players have very much to do whatsoever, it's in the wonderfully in-jokey cameos that the film really excels. Tim Robbins in particular is flat out hilarious as a mysterious and unsettling 'Stranger' also in search of the fabled guitar pick, and Ben Stiller is the funniest he has been in years in an excellent bit part as a guitar store employee, equipped with garish amounts of rocker hair. It's also nothing less than a scream to see the legendary Meatloaf poking fun at his hard edged persona by playing Black's vehemently religious father in the film's opening scene, as well as singing on screen for the first time since Rocky Horror Picture show. Foo Fighters musician Dave Grohl is memorably badass, reprising his role as Satan from the band's music video, and John C. Reilly makes an almost unrecognizable appearance as a flying sasquatch in an unsettling drug induced hallucination sequence.
While the film may not win Tenacious D many new fans, for those who previously enjoyed their work it is still easily worth a watch. There may not be a whole lot of new material, and the songs may not be quite as caustic and catchy as in the past, but Black and Gass's collective enthusiasm is enough to guarantee that the legend of Tenacious D will keep on rocking for quite some time. Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny may not live up to its boast of being "the greatest motion picture ever made", but it does certainly guarantee a highly enjoyable, albeit forgettable hour and a half of inspired madness and head banging rock music.