The Sundance of Sex continued last night with Jack Black’s new comedy The D Train, and before I go any further, be aware that the movie’s central hookup could constitute a spoiler. It’s the sort of surprising sex scene that the trailer might leave out (for several reasons), but then again, it’s such a gotta-talk-about-it jolt that you’ll likely hear about what goes down long before the movie makes its way to the multiplex. More important, it’s a genuinely interesting twist that distinguishes The D Train from the movie you first think it’s going to be.
The movie begins oh so conventionally as Black plays dorky family man Dan, who’s tasked with chairing his high-school reunion committee even though he’s just as unpopular as a pushing-40 adult as he was as a teenager. Dan’s desperate to prove himself somehow, and after he stumbles upon a sunscreen commercial starring class dreamboat Oliver Lawless (a winning, hunky James Marsden), Dan formulates an unlikely plan: He’ll fly to L.A. and try to lure Oliver back to Pittsburgh for the reunion, which will give the event a big draw and boost Dan’s cool points by association.
Though Oliver never gave Dan the time of day in high school, he’s intrigued by his old classmate when the two finally reconnect in L.A. Mostly, Oliver likes how Dan makes him feel: Though Oliver is actually a struggling, broke actor, the besotted Dan is too blind to see it and treats Oliver like the biggest star to ever walk the earth. After some wild nights of carousing, bisexual Oliver feels obligated to return the favor … and that’s when, unexpectedly, James Marsden rips Jack Black’s shirt open and fucks his brains out.
Yep! That happens! And it’s nearly as out-of-nowhere as it sounds. In an earlier scene, Oliver casually proclaimed his bisexuality — “I’m not into labels, I like whatever,” he says — but Dan’s straight and married, and this isn’t the sort of movie where he eventually realizes he’s gay and comes out. That said, watching him wrestle with all the implications of their illicit hookup is what gives The D Train its oomph. Dan doesn’t want a second fuck, but he also doesn’t want Oliver to fuck anyone else: He’s weirdly sprung on his good-looking classmate, who’s made him feel desirable for the first time in forever.
“In comedy, you feel like you’ve seen it all, but this was so subversive,” Marsden said after the premiere. Indeed, it feels like the rare mismatched buddy comedy that finally has the guts to follow through on its central bromance: Imagine if halfway through I Love You Man, Jason Segel and Paul Rudd started making out, or if Humpday had ended with an actual same-sex humping. Sure, The D Train still has a ruse-upon-ruse premise where Dan struggles to keep all his secrets under wraps, but it’s a movie that seems to be building to a genuinely uncertain place, where even the most conventional ending will still be complicated. When Oliver asks Dan late in the movie, “How do we end this?” you might be wondering the same thing yourself, since there’s no pat reason for why Dan responded to their hookup like he did.
Or maybe there is: Maybe he’s simply a Marsdensexual, the kind of straight man who’d go gay for the 41-year-old hunk. Certainly, The D Train’s directors, Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel, were likewise enamored with their star.
“James Marsden, we just wanna warn you, is so good-looking in this movie!” Paul said while introducing the film.
“And not in real life, surprisingly,” added Mogel, as Paul deadpanned, “You need a lot of camera tricks.”