Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (2006) / Comedy-Musical
MPAA Rated: R for pervasive language, sexual content, and drug use
Running Time: 93 min.
Cast: Jack Black, Kyle Gass, Tim Robbins, Ben Stiller, Meat Loaf, David Grohl, Amy Poehler, Ronnie James Dio (cameo), Colin Hanks (cameo), David Koechner (cameo), David Krumholtz (cameo)
Director: Liam Lynch
Screenplay: Jack Black, Kyle Gass, Liam Lynch
Review published November 29, 2006
Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny is a film that will most likely appeal to a defined cult audience and very few others. Certainly, if you are a fan of Jack Black (Nacho Libre, King Kong) and Kyle Gass's "band", Tenacious D, and their music, you will get the most mileage out of seeing this extended semi-rock opera. It might also be of interest to those in their mid-to-late 30s, particularly if you were into the hair metal bands of the early 1980s -- if you can name even one song by Dio, you might just qualify. In fact, the entire film might be called a tribute by Tenacious D to their influences from the old metal days, so if you ever knew what it was like to wear a denim jacket, sport long hair, and write the names of your favorite metal bands all over your textbook covers in junior high, this movie was made for just for people like you.
The film itself is a fictional account of Tenacious D's beginnings, with a young JB (Black) leaving his puritanical home in search of a place where he can "rock". One day he meets a street musician named "KG" (Gass), who comes across as too cool to school the young, impressionable JB, but the two soon form a partnership to help each other achieve their ends of becoming rock stars. While trying to find out what it is that all of their favorite successful rock stars have in common that made them great, they discover they all used the same guitar pick, which they soon find out is called "The Pick of Destiny". Wanting to become famous rockers themselves, Tenacious D sets out on a mission to steal the P.O.D. from a Rock N Roll museum and become the next great hard rock sensation.
As I watched Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny, I enjoyed the film, but also wondered if others in the audience truly understood some of the gags and humor sprinkled throughout the film itself. Black and Gass are much older than their mostly college age fans, and of those fans, most of them are probably more interested in their humorous lyrics and catchy guitar compositions than in their odes and tributes to metal and classic rock of yesteryear. However, since Tenacious D's music is rife with tribute itself, I can only assume that D's fans are used to not totally comprehending what Black and Gass are referring to, and perhaps even enjoy it more for the obscurities. For instance, there is a scene alluding to A Clockwork Orange where hooligans dressed in masks and white garb beat JB mercilessly; this might seem downright bizarre for those unfamiliar with the film, although that probably won't stop them from finding it funny because of that fact.
If there is another film that is reminiscent of the plot of Pick of Destiny, it is the now classic 1980 film, The Blues Brothers, with its "band on a mission" structure, car chases, and crazy guest appearances. While both films are comedic tributes to older styles of music that influenced semi-mock new bands, where The Blues Brothers truly excelled is in pooling together legendary musicians to be a part of the overall tapestry of the musical, with many great numbers re-enacted by phenomenal artists of the period. Tenacious D boasts a few cameos by some lesser known musicians (Ronnie James Dio, Meat Loaf, and Dave Grohl), but the film pays less tribute to yesterday's rock as it does to Tenacious D's interpretation of how that music sounded, updated to to the height of today's humor through vulgar lyrics and lowbrow attitudes. The non-musical aspects of the film feature Harold & Kumar-type antics, with Gass and Black coming across like "Bill & Ted" if they continued to have "excellent adventures" into their adulthood.
Just as fans of Tenacious D are limited to a certain type of music listener, so too is their movie. My recommendation is that, if you're a tenacious Tenacious D zealot, it is a must-see experience. I think older audiences will relate to the many music and film allusions, while the crass, juvenile humor in the comedy might still keep the high school and college-aged viewers snickering just enough to find it entertaining. The cult status of the film is almost a certainty, and I did find it a very amusing scattershot experiment, but I would hesitate to recommend the film to anyone completely unfamiliar with D's music-based comedic shtick.
©2006 Vince Leo