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Before Jack Black became Jack Black, he was Jables, one half of the greatest band in the world, Tenacious D. He and the band's other half Kyle Gass first got major notice with the D's series of HBO specials, later they even put out a successful album and went on tour. Tenacious D is real.
Now a little older and maybe not all that much wiser, the duo revisits the gig that made Jack an international superstar and landed Kyle a cameo in Elf by taking Tenacious D to the big screen in The Pick of Destiny. Getting the band back together means revisiting a lot of the stuff that fans have already seen, and the movie is filled with little knowing nods to the group's past work. Liam Lynch's script borrows heavily from the group history already established in their HBO shorts. All of this will of course, fly right over the heads of anyone who hasn't wasted a good deal of their time illegally downloading Tenacious D songs, but for the faithful few who have it's gold.
The rest of the movie is your basic origin story, and the film opens by telling of JB's childhood in the town of fuck ass Kickapoo with a truly transcendent 10-minute rock opera sequence. After shocking his conservative parents with his rock and being banished to his room, young Jables prays to his Dio poster and receives instructions: Go to the land of Hollywood and rooccckkk!
From there Liam Lynch rocket launches his movie into a killer tarot card credits sequence propelled by the power of KG's kickass playing and Jack's golden voice. If only that sensibility had carried throughout the entire film. Lynch should have thrown out whatever notions he had of making a buddy comedy and turned this into a full blown, completely over the top rock opera. Whenever Tenacious D's wild, offensive, and sometimes manic music is allowed to completely take over, The Pick of Destiny soars. There are more brilliantly transcendent moments like the opening scattered throughout the film, most of them dream sequences or drug-powered fever dreams. The movie wraps up with a rock battle between the D and the devil, and you really just can't beat that. But in between those moments of crazed musical blending, things get creatively spotty.
Jables and Kage meet, get stoned a lot, and form their band, but to be the next big thing they need an edge. Rather than bemoaning their inability to get Eddie Van Halen they meet with a crazy rock guru played by Ben Stiller who tells them of a magic guitar pick made from the devil's tooth called the Pick of Destiny. The pick has been behind the success of every mega-rock act in history, and its magical properties will be what Tenacious D needs to become the greatest band in the world. To get it, they'll have to break into the Rock History Museum, a plot device designed to get Tenacious D on the road, away from their bong, and headed for glory.
And there's where the movie stumbles a bit. The whole Pick of Destiny plot just ain't that great, and chasing after it takes the D away from their music. The D needs to rock, not crawl through air ducts in an attempt to run off with the Devil's tooth. I'm not telling you that the movie's non-musical moments suck, they're just not as good as when JB and KG are really rocking, and after all the excessive worship of ROCK is what Tenacious D is supposed to be all about. For those not already converted to the greatness of the D, some of the film's less creative buddy-comedy elements simply may not work.
Still, when The Pick of Destiny is good, it's really good. It's a modern day successor to The Blues Brothers and frankly in some ways it's even better. Let's hope it does for Rock what Jake and Elwood did for the Blues. The cocky confidence of the D carries over to create a lovable story about two eternal (and possibly deluded) optimists who believe they can rock hard enough to take on anyone and win. Though the movie at times struggles to find it's way, it delivers so many solid, hard-rocking pleasures in between it's moments of creative confusion that it's well worth the price of admission, Tenacious D fan or not. When called upon, the movie rocks, and rocks hard. What more could you want?