On the run from his puritanical parents, JB (Black) arrives in Hollywood and forms Tenacious D with metalhead beach busker KG (Gass). The two embark on an odyssey to reclaim a fabled pick and crown themselves Greatest Band In The World...
Thanks to the darkness, Rock School and cider-zombie institution Ozzy Osbourne, rock appears to be enjoying a renaissance when, really, it should be on Preserved Moose status. Still, how times change: what was once the stuff of shock, misogyny and sacrilege is now a borderline variety act. Comedy isn’t the new rock and roll; rock and roll is the new comedy.
Ligging it backstage (and somewhat late for the party) is Tenacious D, Jack Black and Kyle Gass’ kingsize buffoons whose hard posturing and cod-epic rock-offs won a following from their HBO TV spots. In small, intense doses, and with cosily offensive ballads like Fuck Her Gently, they’re proper funny. But with all the goodwill in the world, an entire movie?
The opening minutes look like it’s going to work. In a bombastic power-chord opener, JB’s backstory is enacted as rock epic, with Meat Loaf gobbling vocals as his God-bothering dad and Ronnie James Dio hailing Satan from a bedroom poster. It really touches the spot but, just as you settle in for a lewd Blues Brother-style musical explosion, the film starts furiously chewing up genres like Eddie Van Halen shredding a lawnmower over a fretboard. Parody, buddy movie, animation, mock-epic, road movie, heist… Soon the whole thing becomes as unsettled as Jack Black’s mentalist eyes.
The stars’ old Actors Studio buddy Tim Robbins hams it up as a mysteriously accented old rocker with nefarious plans, and Ben Stiller pops up in a fright wig and leather vest. Blink and you’ll miss other Hollywood names like Amy Adams and Colin Hanks flitting through. But at the end of the day, this is Black and Gass’ movie — especially the camera-hogging Black. If you’re a fan, movies don’t come Blacker. None more Black, in fact. It’s a total mugfest of deluded self-belief, Tasmanian Devil tics and exultant swearing (“Holy shitballs,” anyone?). Even so, JB’s promise of “37 hard laughs, 27 chortles, three mind-blowers and two disgustipations” needs adjusting. We made it two hard ones, 13 chortles, no mind-blowers, the best cock-push-up gag you’ll ever see and half a disgustipation, but that could have been the hotdog. It’s a loveable shambles, but it could have rocked harder.
For fans, a crowd-surf over Tenacious Ds best bits. For the unbaptised, a novelty movie of a novelty band, big on spirit but in search of a script.