Could it be that I’m the one in the wrong here – that Jack Black, and by proxy Tenacious D, are actually good? To find out I watched their 2006 film Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny. Guess what: it was a bit shit. But not quite as shit as I thought it was going to be. Here’s why.
The first half-hour of The Pick of Destiny is mostly fart and weed jokes (I thought it was impossible for farts to not be funny – this film proves I was wrong) and documents how Jack Black and Kyle Glass met one another. It then transitions into an adventure film, as the two set off to find a special guitar pick that will allow them to become amazing musicians (and thus pay their rent).
Unlike many band films, this one actually had a pretty decent budget. It is well shot, and the plot moves along at a good pace. Sure, a lot of the humour is based around weed and ogling women’s breasts, but it is no worse than many other silly films that I’d happily watch. There’s even an improbable cameo from Tim Robbins to keep you entertained.
The film’s major problem though is Tenacious D’s songs. For those that have not heard any of their tunes they all revolve around the same structure. First, Kyle Glass plays something a bit baroque on his guitar while Jack Black sings the words ‘cock’, ‘rock’ or ‘fuck’ in a quiet voice. Then a loud riff kicks in and Jack Black sings the words ‘cock’, ‘rock’ or ‘fuck’ again, only this time loudly. What I’m trying to say is this: both the music and the words are rubbish.
The whole loud/quiet dynamic is fine for the Pixies (come to think of it Kyle Glass does look a bit like he could be Black Francis’ tubbier older brother) but with Tenacious D tracks it just gets very wearing. Listening to an album of theirs is rather like hearing a crap cover version of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ played on repeat.
Then there’s the lyrics – they just aren’t funny. One of the key elements in comedy is surprise, which means good comedy songs are not easy to write, because once you’ve heard it once you know what is coming when you hear it again. This is a massive issue for Tenacious D because they only have one joke: namely, interjecting the words ‘cock’, ‘rock’ or ‘fuck’ into any situation. Here’s one verse from their song ‘Car Chase City’:
Car chase city that’s the name of my game,
It was all groovy now it’s totally lame.
KG really fucking blew us some ass,
Now we’re fucking headed for a total collapse.
See what I mean? There’s about 15 songs like this scattered throughout the film and, as a result, you can’t really ignore them. And you know what – it’s a shame that Tenacious D’s songs are so terrible, because otherwise The Pick of Destiny is actually not that bad… I’d even go as far as to say I enjoyed some of it. Yes, it is silly and over reliant on pot smoking tropes, but it’s got some funny moments and the dynamic between Black’s boundless energy and Glass’ gentleness works really well. Even Dave Grohl wasn’t totally unbearable in his cameo as the devil. It’s just those fuck/cock/rock songs that are the problem.
Another thing I realised while watching this is that I might be a bit more like Jack Black than I’d care to admit. I’m always making rubbish jokes about farts, cocks and fucking (so I’m told), so maybe this is why I have hated Jack Black so much all these years: he reminds me of the most embarrassing parts of who I am.
Since hating yourself isn’t a very healthy thing to do I’ve decided that from this day forth I’m going to try my best to not hate Jack Black. Maybe I’ll even watch Bernie. Just don’t expect me to listen to a Tenacious D album anytime soon.
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