Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Fuck Yeah, It's Funny.

Besides my conversation with Jazz Aristocracy (and Lori and Wonder Woman's death-defying deep-fried turkey, which I was sure would immolate chez Lightfoot to a crispy crackly crunch but which turned out delicious), the high point of the trip to Western Mass. was a Boys' Night Out at the Flicks, wherein Bobby and I took in Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny.

Naturally, it was absolutely incumbent upon us that we assume what in certain circles is known as The Proper Frame of Mind, which resulted in me saying one of the stupidest things I've said in many a moon during the Coming Attractions, but, hey. It's Tenacious D Time.

There's many a belly laugh in this flick. Jack Black is a fine, fine physical comedian when he's playing the part of the Rock True Believer, the last unironic adherent to the Power of Rock. His wide-eyed wonder at Kyle Gass's sloppy recital of a Bach Bourée and Beethoven's "Für Elise" while busking on a beach road, and his improvised lyric announcing KG's genius to the indifferent passing crowd, are by themselves nearly worth the entire price of admission. And his casual and creative use of the F-Bomb has an undeniable insouciant artistry, unlike anybody's I've ever admired. He's also a great singer, but we knew that.

The problem with the flick is the damned story keeps getting in the way. It's at its best when it sticks to little blackout episodes that illustrate Tenacious D's fundamental ridiculousness; when it tries narrative it becomes trite and a little boring. I couldn't help thinking, too, of the potential wasted to make fun of rock's pretentions. It begins with a quite brilliant parody of Tommy (featuring a child actor who's an absolutely amazing miniature Black), but that's the only point at which it attempts to engage rock history. Wouldn't it have been great to have seen a few parodic pokes at The Song Remains the Same, or Sid and Nancy, or Oliver Stone's The Doors?

Looking back on the movie now, I think the funniest conceptual sally in the movie (and, really, in the whole Tenacious D gestalt), is JB's interpretation of the meaning of rock. Conspicuously absent from any Tenacious D performance in either the movie or any of their TV shows is an audience of any appreciable size -- and what audiences they do perform for, hate them very much. If the Power of the Rock isn't for the audience, then who is it for? In the climactic showdown with the Devil (Dave Grohl again, natch), the challenge isn't "The audience will like our rocking better," it's "Our rocking will kick the ass of your rocking!" It's a wonderfully cockeyed and self-deluded joke, pretending that the potentiality of the Power of Rock exists entirely in the mind of JB's True Believer, utterly independent of what any objective observer might conclude.

What pimply 15-year-old playing a tennis-racket-guitar in front of a mirror hasn't had the same delicious delusion?


roxtar said...

Diggin' that B.C.Rich Dagger, although I suspect a Warlock might have lent more verismilitude.

Kevin Wolf said...

My rock lameness is showing: I'm likely to end up seeing this when it's out on DVD, rather than now.

The soundtrack CD is funny in and of itself, though. The Rock Off is great. JB's colorful language is included on the CD.

Bobby Lightfoot said...

I'm more impressed with verisinsimilitude.

temporary costello said...

Joe Bob Briggs would say that the filmmakers let the plot get in the way of the story.

iTunes also has a [clean] version of the album. WTF?

Anonymous said...

Go see it