Tenacious D, actor Jack Black’s musical side project with friend and fellow band member Kyle Gass, took to the cinema in 2006 to showcase their brand of guitar-strumming comedy. The results were forgettable.
Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny is a film aimed primarily at the band’s fans. It’s also targeted, unfortunately, at those who enjoyed This Is Spinal Tap, The Beatles in Yellow Submarine, rock opus Tommy, and Eric Idle in The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash. But beyond its novelty, it pales in comparison.
The film tells the tale of Jack Black’s meagre guitarist shedding his oppressive home life for the Hollywood world of rock legends and celebrity. There he meets Kyle Gass, a street performer whose guitar skills enthral an over-eager Black. Believing Gass is in a successful rock band, Black starts to help Gass with his everyday chores. When he finds out Gass is lying to him, Gass apologises with a gift: a new guitar. Believing in the supernatural powers of The Pick Of Destiny – a guitar pick fashioned from Satan’s tooth – that gives the player unlimited ability on any stringed instrument, the two nobodies band together to form Tenacious D. They then set out to find the pick and become the greatest rock band in the world.
At times, the film seems more concerned conforming to rock and roll conventions like the psychedelic hallucinations brought on by a rampant overindulgence with acid that made Yellow Submarine so unique but ultimately completely rubbish. The Beatles’ movie might have been a strange affair with little merit, but at least it was honest. The Pick of Destiny wants to be the Yellow Submarine of the MTV-generation, it wants to celebrate music like Tommy, and it desperately wants to be as funny as This Is Spinal Tap, but it’s nothing more than a poorly-scripted set of sketches (Black and Gass are much more suited to their television work and comedy sketches seen on The Complete Masterworks.)
Jack Black tries his level best to make it work, and has some amusing moments, but he’s not helped by Kyle Gass who reminds me of a middle-aged man at a wedding party trying to score with the twenty-year-old bridesmaids. Gass is a master of the guitar but he’s a terrible actor.
Apart from a beautiful transition for the opening credits when electric guitar-driven music is seamlessly dissolved into an orchestral score (this is right about the time when you’ve still got high hopes for the film), it’s incoherent, messy, and seriously lacking in laughs. I’m both a fan of Tenacious D and Jack Black, but this isn’t a celebration of rock n roll, it’s a feature-length promotion for a sub-par rock album that won’t sell very well.