For an R-rated movie that glorifies the devil, bong rips and cock pushups, “Tenacious D in Pick of Destiny” is actually a pretty harmless concoction. No matter that the duo that bears half of the film’s title throws the “f” word around more casually than a Scorsese gangster—Jack Black and Kyle Gass are pure as the whitest snow.
What makes Tenacious D, the self-proclaimed Greatest Band on Earth, so funny is the absolute commitment and childish enthusiasm that they bring to rock n’ roll, especially when that enthusiasm is met with complete indifference by their audiences. JB and KG are overweight hetero life-partners in rock, despite the fact that they fit none of the typical rock star stereotypes.
Director Liam Lynch (who also co-wrote the film with Black and Gass) starts the movie off with a rousing musical number, teasing with the possibility that “The Pick of Destiny” may indeed be a rock opera. A young JB (Troy Gentile, who also played a young Black in “Nacho Libre”) is harrassed by his anti-rock father (Meat Loaf) and serenaded by Ronnie James Dio to a pounding metal beat that hilariously turns into a gothic symphony over the opening credits. Alas, a rock musical is not in the Tarot cards, however, as the music fades out and the movie begins to unfold at a lazier pace.
What made the duo’s short-lived HBO series so wonderful was its unique mix of misguided passion and absurdity, all crammed into compact quarter-hour running times. This manic quality is naturally missing from a 90-minute movie, and once “the D” discover the existence of a guitar pick molded from the very tooth of Satan himself, it isn’t difficult to see where the whole thing is going.
Tenacious D has a lovable man-child mentality, though, that is hard to resist. The earnestness with which they carry out their mission is endearing, and bears a passing resemblence to the original “Blues Brothers” movie. On the surface, their quest for the devil’s pick is quite opposite from Belushi and Ackroyd’s “mission from God,” but when the two become embroiled in a wacky car chase, it seems to serve no other purpose other than to reference the 1980 classic.
Above all, these deluded wanna-be rockers are friends. They may be socially retarded man-children, to be sure, but they are friends nevertheless. Being friends in “the D” means not being afraid to hug or sing a song called, “Dude, I Totally Miss You” with the utmost sincerity. It also means preparing your buddy for his first show using the “gig simulator,”where bottles swing from the ceiling and smash against his protective headgear, reducing him to a sobbing mess in a fetal position.
The requisite celebrity cameos work to various degrees—some are amusing (John C. Reilly and Dave Grohl) and some not (Ben Stiller and Tim Robbins), but the movie is funniest when the natural interplay between Black and Gass is left to roam; free to “be.” Thankfully, Tenacious D learn that they don’t need a fancy devil guitar pick to be The Greatest Band in the World, because the rock n’ roll passion is within themselves.