Theaters would be wise to disarm smoke detectors for showings of “Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny,” a kind of origin story for the self-anointed “greatest band on Earth” starring Jack Black and Kyle Gass. Not surprisingly, the pic struggles at times to flesh out even its relatively brief 90-odd-minute duration, but it delivers some genuine if generally low-brow laughs along the way. An avid cult of “D” devotees should ensure a respectable opening (though probably not equal to Black’s recent outings) and sweet licks in DVD release, where mood-enhancement aids will be all but compulsory.
Black and Gass created the duo a dozen years ago, mixing a knowing sense of hard rock’s sound and fury with wild and humorous lyrics. In between there has been a short-lived HBO program, bestselling CD and raucous live shows.
As a feature, the vibe is very much akin to a live-action Beavis and Butt-Head, complete with the incumbent challenges of stretching a limited concept into a theatrical format. Several cameos help (including exec producer Ben Stiller and Tim Robbins, whose Actor’s Gang troupe was where “D” began), but only the most ardent fans won’t find themselves studying their watches once in awhile.
Directed by Liam Lynch (who helmed the concert film “Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic” and shares script credit with Black and Gass), the story opens with Black’s young JB fleeing his Christian upbringing (singer Meat Loaf, an inspired choice, appears as his dad) for Venice Beach to pursue his dream of rock godhood.
Soon he encounters guitar virtuoso KG (Gass), and, after a run-in with “A Clockwork Orange”-like quartet of hooligans (will anyone in the target audience get that gag? Unlikely), KG takes JB in and puts him through a training regimen infused with “Kung Fu” overtones.
Pic meanders a bit as the two bond over bong loads and plot to win an open mic competition to pay the rent. They then learn of a magical guitar pick that could inspire the masterpiece they yearn to create, at which point the action kicks into a caper mode as they steal the pick from a rock museum. This is followed by a gratuitous car chase that’s either an appeal to “The Dukes of Hazzard” crowd or simply an attempt to pad out the narrative.
As the more accomplished performer of the two, Black carries much of the comedy load, and frankly, there’s more of him here than the average viewer would want to consume in one sitting. Nevertheless, many of the lyrics are funny, including a closing-credit claim that “our movie’s better than ‘Citizen Kane.'”
Not hardly, but give credit to Lynch and his design team for creating the free-wheeling look, which includes an extended if somewhat cheesy fantasy sequence after JB’s meal of organic mushrooms. (The film has yet to be rated, but given the ample drug use, profanity, flatulence, and graphic depiction of the skill that doing “cock push-ups” develops, it will surely be rated “R.”)
For Tenacious D acolytes the movie has been long in coming, and the appetite for the related CD should be healthy. In terms of comedies aimed at the dazed and confused, “Tenacious D” is hardly the pick of the litter, but it litters enough laughs in its wake to do more than just blow smoke.