Sundance: Jack Black, James Marsden Explore New Frontiers in Bromance With ‘The D Train’

Comedy stirs up a toxic air of neediness that first-time directors Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel milk for all it’s worth

Last Updated: January 24, 2015 @ 8:44 PM

Note: This story contains spoilers, don’t read if you want to be surprised by the film.

Maybe there’s something in the air at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where humor and sex often go hand-in-hand.

An acrobatic bit of enthusiastic coitus between gymnasts in “The Bronze” brought the house down on opening night, and on Friday an unexpected encounter between Jack Black and James Marsden did the same in “The D Train.”

The film, a dark comedy whose world premiere brought out a coterie of buyers that included Harvey Weinstein, features Black as Dan Landsman, a sad sack who figures his best shot at getting some respect is to persuade old high-school classmate Oliver Lawless (Marsden), who’s moved to L.A. to become an actor, to show up at an upcoming high school reunion.

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Oliver isn’t a successful actor by any means, but he stars in a national commercial for a tanning lotion – and in the small Pennsylvania town where they came from, that makes him the class celebrity. So Dan endangers his job and his marriage to persuade Oliver to come to the reunion – a task that at one point involves a drunken, drug-infested night that ends in the sack.

We don’t see nearly as much of the bedroom action as we did in “The Bronze” – what’s onscreen is a lingering kiss and then, a little later, one quick flash of enthusiastic humping. “We shot it as a whole scene,” said co-director Jarrad Paul in the post-screening Q&A, “but decided that less was more.”

They also delayed it, said Marsden, until the last day of shooting. “At first it seemed like a good idea to wait until the end,” the actor said, “but as filming went on Jack and I both realized that it was a very bad idea. It made it look like we thought we were saving the best for last.”

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Sex isn’t the theme of “The D Train,” which is more of a comic treatise on the desperate longing to fit in. Nearly every character in the film is ready to do whatever it takes to be accepted or admired, creating an air of toxic neediness that first-time directors Paul and Andrew Mogel milk for all it’s worth.

It left the audience largely enthusiastic, if a little divided — much of the crowd left before the Q&A began — while some viewers left the Library Theatre raving.

The consensus, though, is that a buyer will likely emerge fairly quickly to push the film’s redefinition of the word bromance into multiplexes.