Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny
Directed by: Liam Lynch
Starring: Jack Black, Kyle Gass, Jason Reed
Rated: R for pervasive language, sexual content and drug use.
Parental Notes: This is an over-the-top film full of foul language and heavy metal insanity. A head explodes on screen, a main character uses his erection as a tool, and there is plenty of sexually-themed profanity and pot smoking.
Ingredients: one cocky ball of comedic energy (Jack Black), one talented guitarist straight man (Kyle Gass), Sasquatch, Satan, rockin’ musical numbers, and a liberal smattering of fart and penis jokes. Stir together and bake, and you get “Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny,” a movie that most certainly is not for everyone but which will rock your socks off if you let it.
Black and Gass started the band Tenacious D back in the 1990s, and it has gathered enough of a cult following to put out an album and star the two in an HBO mini-series. The appeal of the duo comes in part from the fact that we all know the stereotype of the guys who want to rock out but only have a cheap acoustic guitar and Tenacious D seems like just another group like that — until you realize that Gass is an amazing guitar player, Black is the ideal front man, and between them they rock more than most bands out there.
The plot line of the film is a rambling mishmash: part buddy movie, part epic quest parody, part stoner flick. The story, such as it is, revolves around the formation of the band and the guys’ quest to find the Pick of Destiny, a guitar pick which was carved from the Devil’s tooth, so they can use it to win an open mic night and get enough money to pay the rent.
There are more references to movie and metal cliches here than you can shake a stick at. JB dreams of being a rock god complete with chain mail and black eyeliner. KG, when we first meet him, is a long-haired, batik-wearing, beach musician. His first night in LA, JB is attacked by a gang of Clockwork Orange style droogs. Most of the cliches get taken to the next level with an odd twist or a goofy flavor that makes them suited to the D, whether it’s JB using his cock-pushup-strengthened erection to deactivate security lasers or the open mic host giving a heartwarming and inspirational speech about how there’s a little piece of Satan inside us all.
Jack Black has always had an astonishing amount of energy and talent, and here he is in his element. JB is a larger-than-life, cartoonish character, a wannabe rock god whose utter self-confidence can never be shaken, a guy who dreams about being able to make people’s heads literally explode with his singing. It’s a lot of fun to watch him rampaging around in this good-natured, goofy story.
Kyle Gass, meanwhile, is an excellent counterpoint to Black’s manic comedy. More laid-back than Black and perfectly willing to play a rock-solid second banana, he plays guitar brilliantly and is willing to look like an idiot in service to the music and the comedy. KG is much more human than JB is, and he offers us someone to sympathize with.
One definite plus to “Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny” is that it hasn’t got a mean bone in its cinematic body. This is the story of two wannabes who make it on their own terms: they go one better than their original goal (winning open mic night) and survive a rock-off showdown with Satan himself (Dave Grohl, in one of the many cameos dotting the film).
Whether you will enjoy “Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny” is hard to guess. If you love the D, you will love the movie; it’s simply more of the same on a much, much bigger scale. If you don’t, you can be sure of one thing: you will almost certainly either love it or hate it. With movies like this, there is no middle ground.