High School Was Bad: The Mid-Life Crisis Movie

Jack Black is willing to perform some self-depreciation for his role of Dan “D Train” Landsman, a man in a closed off social shell looking to recapture his high school youth. Landsman is less than average. He’s the dull chairman of the alumni committee. His pants are often chest high. He’s obsessive and suffers from poor intuition.

Oh, and he’s stuck moving through a pile of self-discovery cliches discarded from films willing to leave them behind. That’s a big one.

D Train is an odd film. Predictable as the narrative is – Landsman tracks down the high school cool kid (who’s no longer the cool kid) asking him to pop into the 20-year reunion – D Train tries to break open with one compromising, unexpected event. A cocaine, muscle relaxer, and booze loaded evening in Los Angeles will do that. Landsman and resident cool kid Oliver Lawless (James Marsden) share a unique night together afterward.

It’s not nice, merely awkward in dealing with its sexually unconventional events…

What was a peppy if ultimately rote film about how we protect ourselves from the truth as we age shifts in tonality. Landsman’s illogical white lie shatters a business, his home life, and psyche. Lights go out and Landsman sinks into shadows. It’s not nice, merely awkward in dealing with its sexually unconventional events, trying to normalize them while only making them appear more out of place.

Black and Marsden are fine together, just caught in a film which pre-assigns their characters to a specific set of actions. Marsden wears all black, he smokes, and mingles with Hollywood royalty. Black may was well wear glasses taped together in the center while working at a consulting firm with a fierce anti-technology policy.

The duo’s relationship is instantaneous. Both happen to be looking for a way to break from the rut of middle age, even if neither admits their situation is identical, if from opposing ends. In a way, they both look up to one another. When D Train leaves its tracks for an unplanned route through this high school throwback story, it’s quickly and aggressively put back on pace.

Of course the truth spills out – loudly – during the reunion. Of course everyone makes up. Of course the leads find solace and a better life. Nothing is learned or gained because the message has been given before. Outside of a few landed gags, mostly on the R-rated spectrum, D Train’s sinking entertainment value does not match the laudable casting. The comedy genre listing is loose fitting. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]

Dealing with issues @ 1:31:17

Digital cinematography has only a few tricks. Imagery is mostly sharp and cleanly resolved. Inside of Landman’s office, an inconsistent haze is introduced, but never feels fully applied. It jumps in between shots and then disappears. The effect is used nowhere else.

Facial definition is strong, in close and in mid-range. Fidelity scores high marks and resolution is firm except for some obvious stock footage when introducing L.A. Exteriors are otherwise precise.

Color grading is menial, introducing browns to match the dated paneling in the office and slightly warmer hues when on the coast. Saturation feels reserved, leaving the images somewhat flat. This does appear to impact black levels to some degree. D Train does not have much in the way of pop; blacks and contrast are only adequate. Flesh tones are pleasing though.

Source material holds. There’s no noise to find. Paramount’s encoding is tops too. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

D Train offers a significant amount of audio space considering the type of film. Inside an air plane, engines and wind can be heard, while other passengers laugh in the stereos or surrounds. Ambiance at street level is given excellent attention. Visits to bars feel just as natural sonically. By the time of the reunion, D Train is ready and nicely envelopes the scene with music.

Music is the low-end force too. Bass lines are well represented. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]

A funny little gag reel (3:38) and eight deleted scenes (7:05) are the bonuses offered. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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