And we played the first thing that came to our heads,
Just so happened to be,
The Best Song in the World,
it was The Best Song in the World.
- Tenacious D, Tribute
It was back in 1994 when Jack Black and Kyle Gass first met as members of the Actor's Gang, an ensemble theater troupe founded by Tim Robbins. Up until that point, Black had appeared in small-ish parts in Airborne and Demolition Man, while Gass was barely noticeable in films like Jacob's Ladder and Brain Dead. Not long after that first meeting, the two discovered one very important thing they had in common: A love for rock and roll. Realizing they were far from a couple of gorgeous long-haired rockers, the two foregrounded their weaknesses while combining their love for comedy and music in a two-man band called Tenacious D. And, as they say -- the rest is history.
Shortly after performing their one and only song, Tribute, at Al's Bar in downtown Los Angeles, the duo garnered attention from comedian David Cross who subsequently helped Black and Gass land an appearance on Mr. Show. That led to three half-hour shorts on HBO, an album that quickly went platinum and a legion of fans who simply refer to their idols as "The D." Now, Black and Gass have somehow formed a story around the wacky, foul-mouthed lyrics to all their songs and used their pull in Hollywood to make a feature-length film called Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny. But is it really destiny ... or just a waste of time?
Make no mistake, The Pick of Destiny is a film that was made for fans of "The D." This is apparent right from the start, as the movie opens inside Lil' JB's (as played by Troy Gentile, who lookes so much like a young Jack Black, it's scary) house. When JB is asked by his ultra-conservative, religious father (Meat Loaf) to join the family for dinner, our little 10 year-old wannabee rock star serenades (in Jack Black's voice, of course) the room with a raunchy version of Kickapoo, a song written solely for the movie. The scene, which involves daddy Meat ripping posters off JB's wall as Ronnie James Dio (JB's idol) belts out some rocking advice -- get out of the house and follow your dreams all the way to Hollywood -- is by far the best one in the film. With an opening this explosive, the rest of the movies seems so promising. However, the flick slowly melts into a series of never-ending skits and songs that lose their appeal shortly after Black drops the first F-Bomb (which, mind you, is usually the second or third word out of his mouth).
After arriving in California, a grown-up JB (Jack Black) immediately becomes enthralled by KG (Kyle Gass), an overweight, long-haired guitarist who hangs around Venice Beach strumming tunes for pocket change. It's not long before JB begs KG to mentor him -- to teach him the way -- and, though reluctant at first, KG finally agrees to help the kid out after he finds him being beaten up by a bunch of hooligans dressed as characters from A Clockwork Orange. Oh, it gets weirder. Desperate for a chance to be a part of The Kyle Gass Project (KG's solo album), JB becomes a model student, dedicating every waking moment to learning the way of the Rock. That is, until JB learns KG is a fraud: The Kyle Gass Project is a scam, KG is actually bald, and those supposed "royalty checks" pouring into the apartment are really from his loving mother, meant to help pay rent. But, with the checks cut off and the threat of eviction looming, the boys must come together to follow their one common dream -- to form the greatest band on earth. Except they have no songs, little talent and only one fan -- a pizza delivery guy named Lee (JR Reed).
From there, the plot transforms itself into a drug-induced, moronic version of what Mission Impossible would be -- if it tried to be a comedy and starred a fat guy instead of Tom Cruise who threw his hands around in spastic fits to distract from the lack of witty dialogue. The boys learn of a mysterious guitar pick that was spawned from a demon's tooth and passed down through history between the greatest musicians who ever lived. It now resides in the Rock and Roll History Museum -- an impenetrable fortress, chock-full of security dudes, laser beams and stairs that light up. But they must go there. And along the way, they meet cameos from Ben Stiller, Amy Poehler, Colin Hanks, Tim Robbins and the demon himself, Dave Grohl. There's also a few other people in there, but you'll have to figure out who is who yourself.
There's certainly effort here, and by strategically placing familiar faces along the way, as well as handing off directing duties to long-time Tencacious D collaborator Liam Lynch, Black keeps the film moving at a fast pace; it offers up more than one chuckle and bombards us with plenty of rock comedy. It's just geared toward a certain audience, one that doesn't care about plot, acting or logic. In a word, it's stupid. But Tenacious D fans won't see it that way -- they will view this as the greatest film that ever existed. While you might disregard Jack Black, Kyle Gass, Liam Lynch and their fans as nothing more than a group of rejects, in a way, that is what's so appealing about them. Because it's not about the quality of a product, it's about the passion behind it -- in their eyes, anyway. It's about living the dream and convincing yourself you're much greater than you really are. Perhaps everyone needs to carry a little piece of "The D," if only to help them get through times when they're down on life and upset with the path they've taken. Though one might view their "we're the greatest band in the world" shtick as egotistical stupidity, it's unique and, oddly, an important message to send to our youth. Keep trying. Keep giving it your all. No matter what the obstacle -- be it a giant demon or a horrific boss -- keep forging ahead and never look back. Sure, we'd like to receive that message with a lot less profanity and not as many fart jokes, but hey -- this is Tenacious D. And that's the way they rock it.