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Frat Pack Tribute Movie Review: Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny

Review by Kevin Crossman

There’s no hidden agenda in Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny, directed by Liam Lynch and written by Lynch, Jack Black, and Kyle Gass. Nor is there the “untruth in advertising” that caused viewers of The Break-Up and Stranger than Fiction to scratch their heads. Black and Gass deliver a juvenile (but not safe for kids), profane, pro-drug, hilarious, and ultimately (yes, here it comes) rocking movie. And it’s one of the funniest movies of the year.

The movie provides an origin story about how Kyle and Jack (heretofore referred to as KG and JB) came to form the greatest band in the world, Tenacious D. If you’ve seen the Tenacious D television shorts on HBO or on Tenacious D Masterworks DVD then much of this will be familiar. JB leaves home in a raucous musical number, “Kickapoo” that features Meat Loaf and JB’s fathers and Ronnie James Dio as his mentor. With stars in his eyes, JB meets Kyle Gass who takes a while to warm to his new friend. Soon, KG takes Jables under his wing and teaches him how to rock. The men begin to bond and also meet their fan, Lee (Jason Reed).

It’s soon revealed that KG is not the superstar he appears to be, but they learn of an open mic night at Al’s Bar that offers a cash prize so they can pay their rent. They are struggling to write good material and when they practice for the gig, they notice all the great rock bands in history used the same guitar pick. They travel to Guitar Center and meet Sebastian, the guitar store dude (played with hilarious intensity by Ben Stiller). Sebastian tells them of a magical guitar pick that is made from Satan’s tooth. The pick is said to be located at the Rock and Roll History Museum in Sacramento.

Thus begins the road-trip portion of the movie. In typical D fashion, there is conflict and the band breaks up. Kyle learns friendship is more important than sex during an effective scene set to the poignant “Dude, I Totally Miss You.” I expected the usual “Jack Blackisms” from JB but was surprised by Gass’ layered performance. He’s the standout of the two, both funny and touching in several scenes.

Meanwhile, JB eats magical mushrooms and in the film’s funniest scene “meets” Sasquatch (John C. Reilly). JB arrives at the museum and uses instructions given to him my a mysterious drifter (Tim Robbins). Finally, JB and KG reunite.

The museum provides a set-piece that provides some of the movie’s biggest laughs, including JB’s use of his “fifth limb” to defeat a laser security system. But after obtaining the Pick, they encounter police and enter into an exciting and hilarious car chase in Lee’s borrowed car. Tenacious D return to Al’s Bar and tell the host (Paul F. Tompkins) they are ready to rock.

Before they can take the stage, they must confront Satan (Dave Grohl) who wants his tooth back.Thus begins the “Final Showdown” in one of cinema’s greatest mixes of heavy metal, Satanic imagery, special effects, and lyrics of homosexual rape (okay, this might be cinema’s only mix of these elements). It’s a great scene and comes to a fitting and satisfying conclusion.

Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny contains many of the classic elements we expect in a good Frat Pack film: male bonding, farce, drug references, and hilarious but profane dialogue. It also adds fantasy elements and sets it to the folk-metal music of Tenacious D. With cameo appearances by regular Frat Pack actors Stiller (who also produced), Robbins, Reilly, Tompkins, Amy Poehler, and Fred Armisen, the film contains the requisite cameos common to the best Frat Pack films. But the music and fantasy add elements we’ve rarely seen and they work well. Though there are a few slow parts, Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny is a very funny film that will keep your toes tapping.

****

Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny movie website

Kyle Gass (left) and Jack Black