Edinburgh International Film Festival

The D Train (2015)

Starring: Jack Black, James Marsden, Jeffrey Tambor, Kathryn Hahn, Mike White

Directed by: Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Jack Black and James Marsden in high school reunion comedy The D Train

Ah, school reunions. Luv 'em or loathe 'em (does anybody luv 'em? I drank three bottles of wine at my ten year class meet up) there's no denying they make for great stories, my personal favourite being Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, an adorably frothy, girly comedy that struck a chord with underachieving twentysomethings everywhere.

And now here's Jack Black as Dan Landsman, a try-hard social loser as desperate to impress his fellow alumni now as he was twenty years ago. His plan? To convince the coolest kid in class, TV actor Oliver Lawless (James Marsden), to return from Hollywood for the class of '94's twenty year reunion. Will he succeed... or will his world collapse under the weight of his lies into a hilarious but somewhat tragic, knuckle-bitingly cringeworthy mess?

The pairing of Jack Black and James Marsden is inspired. No-one plays an asshole like Marsden (remember his preening Prince Charming in Enchanted?) and his Lawless is an arrogant, swaggering, effortlessly charming, alpha male bully whose seemingly glamorous lifestyle crumbles under scrutiny. Perennial Peter Pan Black is perfect as the starry-eyed, hero-worshipping little guy who can't believe he's getting to hang out with the cool kid (think Dewey Finn with a mortgage). His mixture of guile, guilt and confused innocence lends the movie the pathos of a coming of age tale, albeit one focussed on a man pushing forty: like Tom Sawyer in the throes of a midlife crisis, Dan is forced to reassess the way he sees himself and the world around him, and he doesn't always like what he sees. There's a lot of growing up to be done in this film, and not by Dan's son, who, at fourteen, already displays a maturity and grounded sense of self his father lacks.

Touching, very funny and a little too close to the bone occasionally in its acerbic portrayal of middle-aged adults clinging to their youth (no-one over thirty should ever refer to 'Facebook lolz'), The D Train rang as painfully true to me in my forties as Romy and Michelle did in my twenties. All aboard for a ride that may not take you exactly where you expect it to go...

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