Jack Black hasn’t been at the forefront of a feature film in a while, but now, he’s about to make his comeback as a big screen leading man. The trailer for the actor’s upcoming dark comedy, The D Train, has just been released, starring Black opposite James Marsden.
Written and directed by Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel (Yes Man), The D Train stars Black as Dan Landsman, a guy who has remained outside the cool circle for his whole life. But he sees an opportunity to change that after learning that one of the most popular guys from his high school, Oliver Lawless (Marsden), has “made it” in Hollywood as an actor in a high-profile commercial. In order to boost attendance to the high school reunion he’s planning, Dan decides he must convince Oliver to show up. He travels from Pittsburgh to L.A. on his mission, spinning a web of lies in order to recruit Oliver. But he gets more than he bargained for when the unpredictable actor proceeds to take over Dan’s home, career, and entire life.
The film is Black’s first lead role in a movie since 2012’s Richard Linklater-directed black comedy, Bernie. Since then, the actor has mostly stuck to guest-starring roles on TV shows, like Workaholics, and voiceover work in projects like the small screen specials Metalocalypse and the video game, Broken Age. He also made an uncredited cameo in last summer’s box office bomb, Sex Tape. Now, he’s set to make a notable return with The D-Train. The movie premiered earlier this year at Sundance Film Festival and has already stirred up all kinds of buzz.
It’s not hard to see why. Aside from its two charismatic leads, the movie also features a great ensemble cast, including Mike White, Kyle Bornheimer, Henry Zebrowski, Russell Posner, and Jeffrey Tambor. Plus, while the premise may not sound particularly dramatic on paper, the film definitely has unexpectedly dark undertones.
This is made especially evident in the trailer. The first half of the clip starts off pretty straightforward, with Black’s character desperately trying to think of ways to get his classmates to the reunion. Things start to shift in a different direction toward the second half of the trailer, after Dan finds Oliver. When an unanticipated occurrence happens (the clip keeps this occurrence purposely vague, in order to avoid spoilers), it completely changes the dynamic between the two men and leaves Dan struggling to move forward.
The film received mixed reviews upon its Sundance debut, with critics pointing out that the project can’t seem to make up its mind about what genre it is. As The Hollywood Reporter put it, “The dark and sometimes funny The D Train is a feel-bad comedy, in that one feels bad for what happens to every character in the film and bad for sometimes being taken to places that feel more implausible than just transgressive.”
But one thing many reviewers did seem to agree on is sharp performances from both Black and Marsden. “Doing his most substantive screen work since his very different but equally eccentric work in Bernie, Black etches a singular characterization here as a man who has mastered the art … of concealing the pain of constant rejection,” Variety writes, later also adding that Marsden’s performance is “one of his personal best.”
While it may not be as in-your-face funny as some of Black’s other movies, it’s clear The D-Train is set to put the actor back in the spotlight in a big way. The film hits theaters on May 8. Black is also set to star in Goosebumps, out later this year.