DVD Review: Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny
By S.P. MacIntyre Mar 12, 2007, 15:22 GMT
This is the story of a friendship that changes the course of rock history forever, of the fateful collision of minds between JB and KG that led to the creation of the precedent-shattering band Tenacious D, and of the two heroes\' quest to find the fabled Guitar Pick Of Destiny... ...more
Sit back, lower your recliner, eat some nachos, ingest whatever substance it is that relaxes you after a long day at work - perhaps a frosty cold one? Whatever will make you giggly, and pop “Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny” into your DVD tray.
Starring the masterminds behind the featured band (Jack Black and Kyle Gass) and directed by fellow musician Liam Lynch, the movie seems, at first, inaccessible to those unfamiliar with the musical antics of Tenacious D. I am here to say that this is simply not the case. Being a fan of the band heightens an enjoyment of the film, but having no prior knowledge of their music does not preclude one from having a proverbial ball.
Two staples of contemporary comedy are those of absurdity and external pop-culture reference. Often derogated as “stoner humor,” this movie has both elements in spades, boatloads, and other clichés referring to large quantities. If you do not enjoy this style of comedy, you are offended by excessive vulgarity, you don’t think facetious praise for the devil is appropriate, or if you just simply do not enjoy rock music, I will tell you right now that this is definitely not your kind of movie. If, however, you’ve always been curious as to what it would be like to hear an orchestral choir harmonizing on the word “cock” repeatedly, buy this movie right now. I mean, right this very second. Go and get it, I can wait.
Do you have it yet? Okay, let me tell you a little bit about what you’ve purchased. “Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny” is the fictional chronicling of how the band came to be, of how Jack Black and Kyle Gass joined forces to try and become the greatest rock band in the world. After the foreshadowing parody of the THX sound check (drawn by “Ren and Stimpy” creator, John Kricfalusi), you hear a count off—2, 3, 4—and a riff beginning in D minor before the initial fade in. This is the first of many songs in the movie, part rock-opera but fully hysterical, that takes what would be a moderately amusing buddy-film to a whole other level.
Let the spoilers ensue: We are introduced in the film and through the narrating lyrics of this first song to an adolescent, metal and dragon-loving JB playing an unappreciated “tasty jam” for his conservative Missouri family. Spurred by a vision of former Sabbath vocalist Ronnie James Dio, the young Jack Black runs from his ultra-christian father (played by Meat Loaf, marking the second movie in which he has sung—the first being “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”) in an introductory section that sees him arriving in Venice Beach and meeting the initially arrogant and stand-offish Kyle Gass. After a run-in with a group dressed and speaking as though they were nadsats from “A Clockwork Orange,” Jack is taken under the wing of Kyle, posing as a famous rocker, and begins to be tutored in the ways of rock.
After a few plot points (there are plot points?) and an open-mic performance, they discover that all the great rock musicians used the same guitar pick, shaped in the form of a horned demon-skull. A Guitar Center clerk (played by Ben Stiller) informs them that this is the pick to end all picks: a piece of Satan himself. And so the tenacious duo (pardon the pun) embark on a quest to retrieve the pick, getting into a fight along the way that sees Kyle getting spurned at a sorority party and Jack eating hallucinatory mushrooms in the woods and going on an adventure with Sasquatch.
The pair reunites to infiltrate the Rock and Roll History Museum where the pick is being held and use all of their acquired skills to escape. After a car chase, the band shows up at an open-mic contest but are impeded by an encounter with the devil (played and voiced by musician Dave Grohl, of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame, who will have played a guest spot in every band on earth by the year 2010). What follows is…well, you’ll have to just see the movie. There are simply some things that cannot be accurately conveyed in a mere plot summary.
Despite the pointless silliness of the movie, there is a degree of subtlety and nuance. Certain jokes and references and melodies recur and vary throughout like classical leitmotifs. Is it an example of clever writing that provides a deeper insight into the film? No, it’s just something kind of neat you begin to notice after the fifth or sixth (sober) viewing.
One of the film’s notable aspects are the numerous cameo appearances (there are more cameos in this movie than there are abdominal muscles in “300”). Besides those already mentioned, you have Colin Hanks, Ned Bellamy, Neil Hamburger, John C. Reilly, Amy Poehler, and Tim Robbins (it was in his acting troupe that Jack Black and Kyle Gass initially met in real life).
All of this aside, though, the real reason to buy the DVD is for the deleted scenes and extended sequences: pure hilarity for anyone that enjoys this movie. The other great feature on the disc is the ability to skip to particular songs or play them all in sequence. The rest of the special features are just okay, containing only mildly entertaining commentaries and documentaries and the like.
Don’t expect this movie to change your life, to be the epitome of good acting, or to be an example of epic storytelling. If I have one criticism, it is that this movie could fall into a recent trend of trying to make movies with the deliberate intention of having them become cult classics (I’m thinking of “Snakes on a Plane,” here).
Regardless, this is an amusing film that I definitely recommend to anyone who enjoys this sort of humor. And, if you’re feeling adventurous, it could potentially provide an interesting specimen for anyone trying to do ethnographic research into modern American youth culture: just be careful, remember what they say about staring into the abyss.