PSA: Tenacious D In The Pick Of Destiny (2006), or Fun And Frolicking In A Box-Office Bomb

17 11 2009

I’m going to try to make this a quick review tonight. It’s not because I don’t care enough about the D: on the contrary, I happen to think they’re one of the funniest musical acts in history and one of the best satirists when it comes to the pomposity of rock music. Jack Black’s atrociously charismatic lyricism combined with Kyle Gass’s virtuoso guitar playing makes for comedy that happens to be musically accomplished to boot. I’m just going to make this short because this is the kind of movie where you already know if you’re going to like it. It’s a musical comedy that is rock-oriented and Jack Black oriented. If you like the things they did on the HBO show or their first album, you get more of the same, and if you didn’t, then you’re probably very much in the dark as to why any of this is terribly funny.

We learn here the origins of the D, a rock duo that came together when rock prodigy Jack meets older, more experience guitar player Kyle busking one day and admires his handiwork. Kyle at first is annoyed by this nobody who has seriously latched onto him, but he grows a fondness for the plucky kid, and eventually they learn to rock wonderfully together. They form a bond and a friendship that will carry on through the coming years, and their music perfectly represents this new-found camaraderie. But they need something special to break into the big time, something that will set them apart from the millions of other bands who play open mics nights as their regular gigs. An opportunity appears from a mysterious store owner, who lets them in on The Pick of Destiny, a magical pick made from the horn of the Devil that will allow for any guitarist to play on an entirely different level. The pick is being held at a rock and roll museum, nobody at the museum knowing its true power, and the two hatch a plan to take it from under everyone’s noses. Along the way, their mental alacrity, their physical prowess, and even their friendship will be tested, because the road to the Pick of Destiny is littered with obstacles. But with the assistance of their only fan, Lee, can they avoid death or a break-up and become rock heroes?

It’s a pretty funny flick that really got dropped by fans and casual moviegoers alike when it came out, probably due to all the other Holiday blockbusters edging it out at the time, not to mention the fact that their last album was five years prior, and they were striking while the iron was freezing cold. But still, all things considered, it’s a good comedy. The jokes are pretty strong, most of them involving how pompous they are in the face of their total obscurity and the fact that rock music is so full of shit sometimes. They love to use the idea that you can rock SO HARD that you can change the physical properties of objects, like “I’m gonna ROCK your face off!” or “I’m gonna kill him with ROCK!” like it’s fucking kryptonite. Rock is just as bogus and self-important here as in the real world, and the gags do a good job of representing that. And while there are a few slow scenes that don’t pan out comically, the overall feel is still very positive, especially in the songs that move this musical along. They’re all for the most part, really good songs, well-made and catchy with all the tasty riffage that we expect from Tenacious D. The songs are a little too attached to the movie, sometimes, and can’t really live very long on their own, but as long as you’ve seen the movie once, you can at least cope with it and enjoy without living in total confusion. My favorite song? A little track called Master Exploder where Jack Black actually blows a guy’s head off with his ROCK!

Kyle and Jack have a good rapport together that translates well onto the screen. A big draw to this is their seemingly ad-libbed humor is that they actually like each other, which seems to be mostly a fleeting thing in comedic pair-ups these days. They play well off of one another, especially in the latter half of the movie where they interact more with one another. Like real friends, they just feel right together, and there’s no amount of coaching you can do to get as close and as natural with someone else as you can see with these two. It’s a real buddy duo for a really good buddy adventure movie. There’s action, suspense, lots of ganja, cameos that range from the expected (Dave Grohl) to the surprising (Ben Stiller) to the completely unexpected (Tim Robbins???) that are all pretty good. Don’t be surprised if you’re not a fan of the D to find this movie a little lacking, but even for the uninitiated, I think you can easily find something to laugh at here. Check it out, but don’t expect anything as epic as what you find on the cover and the artwork. It’s just a good-natured comedy with a great sense of humor that will be remembered for its financial failure but should be remembered for its charismatic leads and for fun that really delivers. I give Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny 7 1/2 ROCKED TO DEATH CORPSES out of 10.

Tomorrow we get magical and mystical with the black-and-white version of Beauty and the Beast! Until then!