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Overall Rating
3.73

Awesome31.82%
Worth A Look: 22.73%
Average31.82%
Pretty Bad: 13.64%
Total Crap: 0%

5 reviews, 14 user ratings



Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny
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by Peter Sobczynski

"What A Long, Strange, Wildly Uneven Trip It's Been"
3 stars

The first ten minutes or so of “Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny” are so clever and hilarious that even as you are laughing hysterically through them, you may be wondering to yourself how the film can possibly live up to their promise. The answer is easy–it can’t. After that opening, it drifts off into becoming just another hit-and-miss goof and while there are still some big laughs scattered throughout, they are mere punctuation to long stretches in which not much of anything happens.

The film, for those of you not in the know, is the first big-screen venture for Tenacious D, the mock-rock duo of Jack Black and Kyle Gass that has become a cult favorite through a collection of hilariously bombastic tunes (imagine a straight-faced fusion of Meat Loaf and Weird Al Yankovic) and a short-lived HBO show chronicling their struggles to be acknowledged as the world’s greatest rock band. “The Pick of Destiny” plays like two extended episodes of the show jammed together with the first one explaining how the two met and formed the group. The aforementioned opening ten minutes show JB (Black) as a young child chafing under the constraints of a straighter-than-straight family because of his love for hard rock movie. After disrupting dinner once again with his music and receiving a thrashing from his strict father (played, almost inevitably, by Meat Loaf), JB receives a message from none other than Ronnie James Dio urging him to hit the road for Hollywood in order to make his dreams come true. Oh yeah, I should mention that this entire segment of the film is completely sung-through and shot by director Liam Lynch in a whacked-out style that suggest Ken Russell at the height of his 1970's cinematic dementia. In effect, the sequence is basically one long music video but it is so entertaining that it could rank right up there with “November Rain,” “Like a Virgin” and “Sledgehammer” as one of the greatest music videos ever.

If the entire film had taken this mock-opera approach, it might have really turned into something great but at this point, Lynch settles down and the film launches into a more conventional narrative. Years pass and the now-adult JB finally lands in Hollywood, CA (I’d explain what took so long but it would kill one of the better jokes) and encounters KG (Gass) strumming away for spare change on the boardwalk. Most of the passers-by ignore him but JB looks upon him as a kindred spirit and begs KG to educate him in the ways of being a rock god–luckily for JB, KG is hard up for money and luckily for KG, JB doesn’t get that his pose, his patter and even his hair are completely fraudulent. Eventually, the two finally decide to unite and form Tenacious D. From the start, they are completely convinced that they are the greatest group of all time but sadly, with the exception of the frighteningly dedicated fan Lee (Jason Reed), nobody else seems to realize that and the D are soon forced to face the age-old question of how to pay the rent without selling out to the man.

While doing research–okay, staring vacantly at old magazine covers–they realize that all of their rock gods seem to be using the same distinctive guitar pick that, according to a weirdo guitar store clerk (Ben Stiller in a cameo), is actually one of Satan’s teeth and will bestow anyone who possesses it with the power of rock. Currently, the Pick of Destiny, as it is known, is on display in a rock museum and JB & KG set off on a quest to retrieve it–a quest that will find them facing a mad Russian (Tim Robbins) with his own designs on the pick, an ugly break-up when KG momentarily takes his eyes off the prize to party with some co-eds and a final rock-off with Satan himself for possession for the pick.

As you can probably guess from the above description, “The Pick of Destiny” is awfully ramshackle in construction even by the not-exactly-Mametian standards of stoner-comedy narrative. Some of the stuff is really funny, mostly because of the sheer randomness of the gags–we are treated to a hilarious spoof of those THX trailers and a supremely bizarre appearance from the Droogs from “A Clockwork Orange.” The new Tenacious D songs are also pretty good as well–like their other material, they negotiate a tricky balance between spoofing bombastic metal music while still managing to rock pretty hard in its own right. Those elements are inspired but they are surrounded by a lot of material that aren’t. Along the way, we are treated to a mushroom-induced hallucination involving JB and a Sasquatch, a car chase and the break-in at the rock museum–each one goes on for a long time and clearly cost a chunk of money to produce and yet I can’t recall a single truly amusing moment in any of them. (The waste is relegated simply to the big set-pieces–the film has the good sense to bring in the delightful Amy Adams for a couple of moments and then can’t think of a single thing for her to do.) A more significant problem is that the whole Tenacious D joke is one of those that works in small doses but which doesn’t really last for the duration of a feature film–Black throws himself into the material with his customary zeal but he becomes increasingly strained as things progress while Gass demonstrates so little on-screen personality that he seems to be channeling no one so much as Joe Besser.

“Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny” doesn’t really work as a shock comedy (a genre whose thunder has recently been stolen by “Borat”) and it never quite reaches the giddy heights of such similar films as “The Blues Brothers,” “Tapeheads” or the Bill and Ted extravaganzas. The utter goofiness of the material does stand in marked contrast to the ultra-serious likes of most of the current multiplex offerings and that opening sequence is so hilarious that it might be worth the price of admission all by itself, depending on how much you are paying for your ticket. However, like so many trips, cinematic and otherwise, it starts off strong but the buzz quickly wears off and leaves you feeling vaguely burned in the end.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=15280&reviewer=389
originally posted: 11/22/06 16:04:04
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2006 Austin Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/31/10 James Pretty dumb, but funny. KG and JB are actually pretty good at making comedic rock. 4 stars
1/11/08 NoOLINp This leaves out a main character, Ben Stiller. 5 stars
11/13/07 DrejGG they are the greatest band in the word!! and the film is fucking AWESOME 5 stars
3/03/07 AJ Muller Will melt the faces of true D fans and should make some new ones; your mind will be blown. 5 stars
2/05/07 William Goss Screwy, scattershot, but crass fun for the willing. 4 stars
12/12/06 Tiffany This was a dumb movie. Jack black is crazy 3 stars
12/11/06 Carra F'n AWESOME 5 stars
12/04/06 Nicole Fucking Awesome! Their Greatness is off the charts! 5 stars
12/02/06 shagtex Black is back and does it again 4 stars
12/02/06 Ryan Smoke a bowl, and lay back and enjoy, pure brilliance 5 stars
11/27/06 sirina stupid movie but funny at times 3 stars
11/27/06 Tyrantis Awesome for Rock & Roll and/or Tenacious D fans. For others... meh. 4 stars
11/27/06 Cal Awesome! 5 stars
11/24/06 masterblaster greatest fucking movie ever made!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! -period. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  22-Nov-2006 (R)
  DVD: 27-Feb-2007

UK
  24-Nov-2006

Australia
  08-Feb-2007


Directed by
  Liam Lynch

Written by
  Jack Black
  Kyle Gass

Cast
  Jack Black
  Kyle Gass
  Jason Reed
  Meat Loaf
  Ronnie James Dio



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