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Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny (Austin Film Festival ’06)

The reviews on this will probably be a mix of A’s and F’s. It’s either love or hate for the D, and movie-goers won’t be able to know which side they’re on until they pay their ten bucks for a seat.
By  · Published on November 21st, 2006

Release Date: November 22, 2006

As people stumble blindly out of the Borat (review) daze they’ve been in for the past two weeks, they will wander the town like zombies, wondering if they’ll ever experience anything as good or if they should end it all right there and vow never to watch movies again. Luckily, and as if by fate (which is how the D like it), someone went ahead and made the greatest film of all time to fill the void. The Pick of Destiny, in all its over-the-top-glory, is bad news for Citizen Kane and Beavis and Butthead Do America, and AFI will undoubtedly have to reconsider their respected top film list.

JB (Jack Black) is stuck in Bible belt mediocrity with a desperate need to rock, fueled on by anthropomorphic posters of Ronnie James Dio and hindered by his close-minded father (Meat Loaf). KG (Kyle Gass) is a burn out, buskering on Venice Beach with insane guitar skills and less then a dollar in loose change in the hat he’s passing. After they join forces and JB flies through KG’s rock school, they stumble upon an ancient artifact – a guitar pick made from Satan’s tooth – that has made every rocker who uses it into a legend. They set out on a quest to find the pick which takes them through a cast of wacky cameos, the bumbling security of the Rock and Roll Museum, and the open mic contest that could set their career on its path to greatness. It culminates in an epic battle against the Dark Lord himself – the original, Lucifer, not Voldemort.

Pick of Destiny is a classic heros’ journey that combines the old school comedy of the vaudevillian two-man act with the quirkiness of Tenacious D. It’s also a nice blend of beloved Tenacious gags (the lovable cock push up) and completely new story concepts (KG trying a solo act that only sings back up). Fans of the group will recognize elements of their television show and albums, but people previously unaware of the duo’s brilliance will still have a ton to laugh at. The triumph of two insane, pompous rockers will invoke more than a dozen laugh-out-loud moments

The story is incredibly simple, but the filmmakers knew it, had fun with it, and use it as a strength to keep the audience laughing. As a result, there are several moments where the film makes fun of storytelling without being self-aware or taking the audience out of the experience. Plus, like a decently-made turkey served with delicious stuffing and gravy, the incredible supporting characters and clever dialog act to dress a simple storyline in a fancy tuxedo. Mixed metaphors aside, the movie will surprise at every turn.

Joining the fun are Ben Stiller as a crazed Guitar Center employee who clues our heroes in on the pick’s history, Paul F. Tompkins as the constantly unimpressed open mic host, and Tom Robbins who shines as a creepy stranger that wants the pick for himself. All three slide seamlessly into the plot and join the comic conversation between JB and KG like comedy ships passing in the night. The chemistry between Black and Gass is effortless, but it’s actually elevated when they share the screen with their cameo counterparts.

Liam Lynch directed this film with consummate skill, letting the D be who they are while marking the movie as his own. Above all else, Pick of Destiny invites the audience into the party of the year and makes them feel like they’re part of the world that flashes on the screen. That, afterall, is what successful movies are meant to accomplish, and Tenacious D does it with style, innovation, and Dave Grohl in a Satan costume.

The Upside: Laughing that hard is a great calorie burner.

The Downside: The reviews on this will probably be a mix of A’s and F’s. It’s either love or hate for the D, and movie-goers won’t be able to know which side they’re on until they pay their ten bucks for a seat.

On the Side: Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters reprises his role as Satan from the music video for the song “Tribute”.

Final Grade: A

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Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.