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By Mark Bell | November 23, 2006

For me, Jack Black was always the “one hot minute” friend from “The Cable Guy,” or the poor-skating heavy in “Airborne.” When “High Fidelity” hit, and he became the name that he is today, it made me happy, because finally that guy in the background with seemingly more charisma than the real leads in the various films was getting his due.

And then Jack was everywhere, and his rocking, screaming onscreen persona began to get tiresome. Sure, “School of Rock” was perfect for that performance, and the first Tenacious D album is a staple in my iPod rotation (previously CD rotation), but the other films, the “Saving Silverman,” “Orange County,” “Shallow Hal”… it was all too much. By the time “Nacho Libre” rolled around, I was personally sick of Jack Black… and yet, still intrigued with this Tenacious D film I’d been hearing about. But how could I enjoy a film that was going to be Jack at his loudest, most over-the-top when I couldn’t even deal with “Nacho Libre”?

Simple, “Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny” is the perfect showcase for that persona, even moreso than “School of Rock.” In “PoD,” we see a Jack Black that is overwhelming bluster and rock, but also vulnerable, sweet and sympathetic. The charisma is on-point, but the humanity is ever-present. Jables is once again on my “awesome” list.

“Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny” is the beginning primer on all things Tenacious D, giving a full backstory to the creation of the self-billed “Greatest Band in the World.” The story is thus: A young Jack Black runs away from his uptight Christian upbringing so that he can fulfill his dreams of being a Rock God, and finds himself in Hollywood, California. While in Sunny CA, he meets street busker / guitarist Kyle Gass and the two become friends, with Kyle first mentoring Jack until the two find themselves on more equal musical footing. After a particularly underwhelming performance as Tenacious D at a local open mic, they find themselves wondering what it will take to become great… and realize that all the greatest guitarists in the world, at one point in their careers, had a green pick known as the Pick of Destiny. The film then follows the two as they go after said mythical pick…

The film starts out rocking, with a musical pre-credits sequence that blows the doors off anything else to follow. This is not to say that the rest of the film is weak, hardly, but only that it hits its peak immediately and never quite gets back to that spot (though it gets pretty damn close). But those first 6 minutes are unreal, and they place you in a world that is both reality as we know it and fantasy as we’ve read about. And it is within that realm that the rest of the film resides, being at all times as normal as reality can be while also holding the promise of the mythical and epic.

Acting-wise, everyone carries their own weight and more. As mentioned earlier, Jack is not only tolerable again, but sincerely loveable, and Kyle shines as the straight-man with a golden heart (or golden hard-on, the man likes the ladies). And similar to the plight of finding a film where I could enjoy JB again, this is also a film where a cameo from Ben Stiller didn’t make me cry foul, another grand achievement.

For those that are fans of the D foremost, the film will not disappoint. Throughout the film are references to the D’s show on HBO and characters and events that were built up via the D’s music. (All told, if nothing else, “Pick of Destiny” is really the fleshed-out backstory to the song “Tribute” off the D’s debut album.) But on a grander note, “PoD” feels like act one of an even more epic trilogy. This is how the D met, but so much more could be explored in subsequent films, from the real rise to greatness for the band, the trials and tribulations that occur with stardom, to a personal reconciliation by bringing back the characters of Jack and Kyle’s parents, and a possibly even more final showdown with the Devil… but that’s all hopeful speculation.

In the end, Jack, Kyle and director Liam Lynch (“Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic”) have created more than just a low-brow comedy, they’ve created a comedic saga, a film more rock show than movie. This epic quality, enhanced by the idea of a Pick of Destiny, a hero’s quest and the immersive soundtrack, makes the film more than just a few good laughs. This is about following your dreams, being the best you can be and rock and roll at its purest fun. And, yes, the film is also one of the funniest films of 2006; the type of picture you should see in a theater with a bunch of friends, because this is a film experience, not just a movie.

Check out clips from “Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny” in Film Threat’s Video Section>>>

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