When you hear about a film like Tenacious D In the Pick of Destiny, long before it comes out, you get excited. “They’re making a Tenacious D movie? That’s badass,” you say, in your public-university-dulled vernacular. Tenacious D is the Greatest Band on Earth, both by their own admission and that of rock fans who have noticed a severe dearth of balls in today’s music acts. Their show was hilarious, their album was outstanding, and they (mostly in the form of Jack Black) have been tearing ass through other people’s films, bringing out the funny in tired comic devices like ornery children and fat chicks jumping off diving boards. The expectation level among hardcore and regular fans alike was somewhere above the product launch of body glitter. Then the backlash came, as it inevitably does just before a movie opens, with reviews in ostensibly hip music magazines and self-important blogs from internet nerds who were inexplicably invited to pre-screenings. They all denounced Pick of Destiny as just another stupid stoner comedy. And thus, the ship was (presumably) lost.
Pot jokes, like pot itself, have their time and place. But on the whole, the genre is lame and inside-jokey, producing some of the most annoying films in recent memory. The Apocalypse Now of weed movies is Half-Baked, which may indicate something. So when Pick of Destiny was placed in that category, it was devastating and may have had something to do with its relative lack of box-office success. We wanted to see The D doing what they do best: fighting mythical beasts with the Satanic hubris provided to them by the Gods of Rock. They couldn’t give a great show stoned. Nobody can. But after finally watching the film, it has become obvious that both the hype and the backlash are wrong. Tenacious D In The Pick of Destiny is not a magnum opus, nor is it another patchouli nightmare. It’s a decent film with some genuinely funny moments that provides a good two hours of entertainment. And with films like Ghost Rider out there, that can go a long way.
Co-written by Black and Gass, along with director (and former "Sifl and Olly" genius) Liam Lynch, the film begins with a young JB (Jack Black, of course) fighting his puritanical square of a father (played by Meatloaf) over the merits of devil music. With the aid of the Ronnie James Dio, the decision is made to go to Hollywood, where a man can shred freely. There he meets an auburn-tressed Kyle Gass playing for change on Venice Beach. Jack becomes spellbound by his licks, and Kyle sees Jack as a roadblock of more change. The two become friends after Gass neglects to help JB during a savage beating, and Jack moves into Gass’s crappy apartment/rock school. Kyle presents himself to the awestruck Jack as a guitar master who plays with greats, and sets up a series of tasks for Jack to learn the ways of metal. The scene where Kyle administers a stage test is a high point, culminating in a long period of Jack sobbing openly. A man crying can be truly funny, if done right. The bond is nearly broken when Jack learns Kyle’s true identity as a bald man who still cashes his mom’s checks for rent, but their mutual destiny (imprinted indelibly on their butt cheeks) leads them to become Tenacious D.
The rest of the movie plays out as the posters indicated, with the two going on a stoner-like road trip to find the Pick of Destiny, a mythical pick forged from the chipped tooth of the Devil (played by Dave Grohl), that they learned of from a cryptic technician at their local guitar shop (an always-stupid Ben Stiller). It is their belief that the pick can give them the awesome skills to win the open mic competition at their local bar. From there, they travel to the Rock and Roll Museum, where the pick is held, and have a few adventures and a few songs. Jack eats a wild mushroom and floats around with Sasquatch, Kyle chases skirt to a frat party where he is embarrassed in front of everyone. They reunite in the air vent of the Museum, trying to break in, and retrieve the desired object despite the machinations of a needless character, a too-creepy Russian guy who had lost a leg trying to steal it himself (Tim Robbins, for whatever reason).
The end of the movie, at the doorstep of their “command performance” has the only true Tenacious D moment in it, when a rock-off with the Devil is instigated and won by default by the heroes. In the fight, the Devil loses his horn, and the conclusion sports the two using the lost appendage as a bong. It is an ending that perfectly mirrors the movie itself: a marriage between classic Tenacious D metal seriousness and hackneyed pot humor.
Tenacious D In The Pick of Destiny seesaws between stupidity and genius, with too little of the latter. When the D have a fantasy about playing their open mic as conquering heroes, the sequence makes one wonder why the whole movie wasn’t just like it. A great song, great sight gags, and the kind of fireball-up-the-ass machismo that made Tenacious D famous in the first place; because when Jack Black says he’s going to blow your mind, you should be worried that your actual brain might springboard right through your skull and out the back of your head.
The features on Pick of Destiny, with the exception of an interesting “Jump to a Song” feature, reads like a standard list of DVD mainstays, including English and Spanish subtitles, Dolby 5.1 Surround audio tracks, a Making Of featurette, deleted scenes, and commentary from the two stars and bandmates. The commentary, like all commentaries, is a passably interesting device meant only to add perspective to a certain sequence. In this case, Black and Gass simply run their game of ironically self-serious banter interspersed with childish bickering. The Making Of featurette, despite entries from the many funny people involved in the film, reads the same way.
There is a music video, featuring the title song of the movie: “The Pick of Destiny,” which brings to mind several other clips with the “watching ourselves on the movie screen” theme in them. However, those who produced this DVD felt it, too, deserved a Making Of featurette, which in many ways is indistinguishable from that of the film.
The deleted scenes and outtakes are what really make or break a DVD (if they are there), and in this one, the scenes are just funny enough to make me wonder what led to their banishment from the final cut. Outtakes always lend the effect of being stoned, where some inane object or situation (the camera, per se) causes an epidemic of laughter that even engulfs the DVD viewer. As we all are aware, there is just something about watching people busting up reasonlessly that gets us to bust up with them. Personally, I need outtakes with every comedy, and maybe even in some dramas. The point is, they are the highlight of this DVD. There are also some trailers on the DVD, with the implied Stamp of Approval from those in the film. That has always been weird to me.
In total, this DVD has all the things necessary to complement the film. It is a passably funny movie, and thus, deserves passably funny features. The song and video, which was paraded around MTV for awhile, is also passably funny. I guess I feel like, with the pedigree Tenacious D has, these things should be more than just "passable." They should be The Greatest in the World. The DVD for Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny does the same job as the young McDonald’s employee making money to go to college: just enough not to get fired.