If you’re going to make an unapologetic slob/druggy/rock and roll comedy it has to be snark-free, without a hint of irony. Self-deprecation is welcome, but winking at the audience spoils the effect. And this movie winks at its winking, a sort of infinite regression of snark. That’s how the undeniably funny Kyle Gass and Jack Black have produced an over-stretched skit rather than a movie, a script as saggy as the bare tushes they show off as they explain how they got the name of their group. It’s for hard-core (and half-baked) fans only. If you’re not familiar with their previous work, you’ll come away from this either mystified or bored.
Gass and Black, of course, are Tenacious D, the mock rockers. This film purports to be the story of how they got started. We see young JB rocking his heart in a family that doesn’t understand. So he leaves home in search of Hollywood, on the advice of Ronnie James Dio. But it takes him many years to get there because there are a lot of Hollywoods. Once he arrives, he meets KG, a street performer with a lot of attitude, who agrees to teach him how to be a rocker. Eventually, they form a group (their name taken from matching birthmarks on their tushes) and they learn (from an unfunny Ben Stiller in a cameo as a music store salesman) that there is a guitar pick made from the tooth of the devil with great powers. If they can steal it from the Museum of Rock and Roll despite the best efforts of the security guards and a mysterious guy who wants it, too (an unfunny Tim Robbins), nothing can stop them!
So, they go after the Pick of Destiny (unfunny, dragged-out heist sequence), and then, once they get it, they have to battle the devil for it, because he wants his tooth back (the devil, played by rocker David Grohl, does have some funny moments).
Mike White understood how to make Black’s passion for rock music endearing in School of Rock, where the purity of his character’s love for the music and the “stick it to the man” message didn’t just make up for his selfishness; it put it into perspective. Here, though, it seems it’s the culture and the attitude he loves. And the drugs.
It has too little humor and too much of what it does have is inside, “we get it but the rest of the world doesn’t” jokes to sustain a movie. Remember that Stonehenge routine in This Is Spinal Tap? This is like that, only not funny, intentionally or otherwise.
Parents should know that this film has extremely strong and crude language, some sexual humor and non-sexual nudity, and drinking, smoking, and drug use. There is some comic peril.
Families who see this movie should talk about how rock and roll keeps re-inventing itself every time it begins to feel mainstream.
Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy The Blues Brothers and School of Rock. They might also like to see Tenacious D – The Complete Master Works.