Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny Review
By Shawn McKenzie 11/24/2006
When lil’ JB (Troy Gentile) was 10 years old living in Kickapoo, Missouri, his overly religious father Bud (Meat Loaf) tore down all of his posters and forbade him from listening to “the devil’s music” (a.k.a. rock ‘n roll.) The only poster that his dad didn’t tear down was that of Ronnie James Dio (playing himself.) Suddenly, the poster comes to life and advises JB to run away to Hollywood. Dio didn’t specifically say which Hollywood he was supposed to go to though…and after traveling to towns named Hollywood in various states, he eventually arrives in the famous one in California. By this time, JB (Jack Black) has become a young man, and one day while walking down Venice Beach, he witnesses a talented street performer guitarist with long hair named KG (Kyle Gass.) KG starts playing “Bourrée in E minor” by Johann Sebastian Bach…and JB can’t help but sing along with his own lyrics (the song becomes Tenacious D’s “Classico.”) Their impromptu performance together impresses a pizza guy named Lee (Jason “JR” Reed), who suggests that they should be a band. KG thinks that JB is driving away his business, so he tells the intruder to get lost. Later that night, JB is sleeping on a park bench when a goofy-looking troupe of Clockwork Orange-like gang members beats him up. KG sees this and he rescues him. He invites JB to stay with him temporarily. JB really wants to be in KG’s band, the Kyle Gass Project, since KG frequently jams with all of the members of Black Sabbath and the like. He puts JB through a series of rock star tests, such as the Power Slide and his ability to dodge glass bottles being thrown at him. When JB finds out that KG doesn’t know any of those rock stars, that his hair isn’t real, and that his parents are in fact supporting him financially, they decide to form a band in order to pay the rent. JB suggests that they call the band “Tenac,” since that’s a name which has been a birthmark on his right butt-cheek all of his life. Coincidentally, KG has a similar birthmark on his left butt-cheek, which says “ious D.” Lee notices that by putting the two birthmarks together forms the name that they eventually go with…Tenacious D. They try to play a show at Al’s Bar, but when the emcee (Paul F. Tompkins) tells them that they aren’t as good as they claim, they wonder what sets them apart from the rock greats. KG notices that guitar greats such as Pete Townsend, Eddie Van Halen, Angus Young, Eric Clapton, and Randy Rhodes are all featured on the covers of Rolling Stone magazine using the same guitar pick. When they go to a Guitar Center store, the employee behind the counter (Ben Stiller) takes them into a back room and tells them that the pick is actually part of Satan’s tooth. Anyone possessing it…from Mozart, to blues guitarist Robert Johnson, to Eddie Van Halen…becomes a legendary guitar player. It’s currently on display in the Rock and Roll History Museum in Sacramento, so they go on a road trip to break in and steal it. Along the way, they meet a stranger (Tim Robbins), who gives them the way in which to break in (with devious intentions for it once they get the pick.) Once they get the pick, The D faces Satan (Dave Grohl) himself, in which they must play the greatest song in the world [“Beelzeboss (The Final Showdown”] to defeat him. If they win, then Satan will pay their rent; if they lose, then Satan will take KG back to Hell and have sex with him.
Cause he who's a geezer/Must live in my freezer/And she who is starkey/Is full of malarkey/And he who is groovy/Must be in my movie/So come on!/It’s just the Pick!/Of Destiny child/You know our movie’s better than Citizen Kane!
Why am I quoting song lyrics? It’s because I have had this freakin’ song (“POD”) stuck in my head since I saw the screening of Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny, the big screen “biopic” of the Greatest Band on Earth…Tenacious D!
Okay…to be fair, the greatest band on Earth is Huey Lewis & The News, but I have been a fan of The D for many years. I saw their first appearances on HBO’s “Mr. Show” and most of their self-titled spin-off shorts. Even though I don’t have their 2001 self-titled first album, I have heard many songs on it (and not just recently for the purposes of this review…I consider “Wonderboy” and “Tribute” as works of epic musical comedy genius.) I knew of Black before he rose to fame portraying the sarcastic music store worker in 2000’s High Fidelity. His career has had more highs than lows, so I always like to see him on the big screen. I felt a little bad for Gass though. It’s like he is the Andrew Ridgeley of the band. He has had steady work in bit parts in movies and TV shows, and he tours with his side-band Trainwreck (where he is credited under the pseudonym Klip Calhoun), but he has never achieved the same kind of fame as his more bombastic partner. They have always worked well together though, and it is in evidence again in this movie.
While I loved it, I will fully admit that the movie will be appreciated more by hardcore fans of the band. There are little in-jokes in the movie, including bits that are lifted directly from their HBO shorts and their music videos. That is a problem sometimes with projects that have a large cult fan base…non-fans won’t “get” it. It’s the same problem that plagues director Kevin Smith’s Jay & Silent Bob movies, or big screen adaptations of cult TV shows, like last year’s Serenity or this year’s Strangers with Candy. I guess by saying that I loved the movie I am preaching to the choir. If a non-fan saw the trailer for the movie, they might likely say that it looks stupid, but to a fan of The D, they are more than likely to say “F-Yeah!” while watching it.
It does have its share of its stupid moments. The worst one was probably how JB disabled the museum’s alarm system using a body part he had exercised during his “crotch push-ups.” Also, some younger moviegoers might not get the references to 1971’s A Clockwork Orange and 1980’s The Blues Brothers, or how awesomely cool it was to see Meat Loaf and Dio make cameos at the beginning, but older audiences might appreciate them. Otherwise, I think that they will really like the goofy moments, such as JB’s mushroom drug trip with Sasquatch (John C. Reilly), or cameos by Stiller and “Saturday Night Live” alums Amy Poehler and Fred Armisen.
Finally, I have to mention the music. As funny as JB and KG act, they are serious about their rocking…and rocking they do. I almost got so many chills up my spine as to how good their performance was on “Classico” that I might have become a stalker fan like Lee. While every other word is the F-bomb (even the hard rockers they look up to don’t curse as much as The D does…at least in their music), their style is so epic that I could almost consider it a rock opera. That is why it was so cool that Meat Loaf was in it, since he is best known for 1975’s Rocky Horror Picture Show. I consider The D’s movie the best R-rated musical comedy since 1999’s South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.
While Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny isn’t for everyone, it will satisfy fans of Rage Kage and Jables. If you have no idea what I am talking about, then you are most likely not a fan. Practice your power slides and rock to the theater now!
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