2 1/2 out of 4 stars
Produced by: Stuart Cornfeld, Jack Black, Kyle Gass. Directed by: Liam Lynch, written by Black, Gass and Lynch, photography by Robert Brinkmann.
Running time: 1 hour, 33 mins.
Parent's guide: R (profanity, potty humor, sex jokes, drugs, comic mayhem) "Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny'' opens with what appears to be a production logo. It reads "THC: The audience is baking."
So, viewer be forewarned. Or forespliffed.
This goofball collaboration between Jack Black and a balding, ample-bellied gentleman by the name of Kyle Gass tells the tale of a perfectly dreadful rock duo in pursuit of heavy metal fame and fortune.
Along the way, between practicing their guitar riffs and power slides, the partners pause to reflect on the meaning of rock-and-roll - and wonder where they put the bong.
A sketch-comedy rock opera featuring cameos from Ben Stiller and Tim Robbins and a hallucinogenic animated sequence, "Tenacious D" began life in an L.A. theater-improv session. That's where Black, not yet a movie star, and Gass, "still not a movie star," formulated their shtick about two stoner dudes who worship at the feet of Ronnie James Dio, sing songs full of satanic imagery and phallic symbolism (kielbasa and other meat products are prominent) and are certain that one day they will be duly recognized as the Greatest Band on Earth. An HBO show, a platinum-selling CD, and several concert tours followed.
Directed by Liam Lynch, who performed similar services on "Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic" (and who shares writing credit with Black and Gass), "Tenacious D" has moments of truly inspired hilarity. And then it has many, many moments that are not so inspired. They'll doubtlessly appear more so, however, to Tenacious D devotees among the moviegoing public, given their state of mind.
A very funny prologue shows Jack Black as a metal-obsessed 10-year-old (pipsqueak look-alike Troy Gentile - he even has Black's loony sneer), rebelling against his conservative Christian family, singing a nasty little ditty called "Kickapoo" before his dad (Meat Loaf) rips down his rock posters and takes a belt to him.
What choice does Lil' JB have but to run away from home, guitar in hand, and head for Hollywood?
It takes a while to get there, however (there are a lot of other Hollywoods in the country, apart from the one in California). When he finally does arrive, he has turned into Big JB. Eyes agog at the splendors of Sunny So-Cal, he runs into KG (Gass), strumming some Bach on the Venice boardwalk. The two don't exactly hit it off, but that night, as JB sits on a park bench and gets mugged by a band of "Clockwork Orange"-inspired thugs, KG comes along and offers him a place to crash. And so a friendship, a "Kung Fu''-like mentorship, and then a band-ship, is born.
Then, the revelation: A look through KG's collection of Rolling Stone magazines reveals that all the great rock heroes appear to be using the same distinctive guitar pick. JB and KG head for a guitar shop where they meet a mysterious salesclerk (Stiller) who informs them of the legendary pick and its legendary powers. Unfortunately, the pick is behind lock and key in the Rock and Roll History Museum.
Breaking and entering, anyone?
With its flimsy plot and dearth of characters (yes, there's a pizza delivery guy - but there's not even a girl) "Tenacious D" hangs on the slouchy shoulders of Black and Gass, who offer up toilet jokes, arched eyebrows and dopey grins as they do some tokes and wait their turn on open-mike night.
Baked and half-baked, "Tenacious D" does manage to give the term "potty humor" a new meaning. That's some kind of genius, right?
? 2006, The Philadelphia Inquirer. Distributed by Mclatchy-Tribune News Service.