A brilliant modern rock-opera parody with shrewd religious overtones, spectacular metal soundtrack, plenty of comedic cameos, & great stoner/buddy-cop B-movie gags – elevated by the chemistry of real-life bandmates Jack Black and Kyle Gass. 8.7/10.
Plot Synopsis: To become the greatest band of all time, two slacker, wannabe-rockers set out on a quest to steal a legendary guitar pick that gives its holders incredible guitar skills, from a maximum security Rock and Roll museum.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
Master Exploder. The Metal. Kickapoo. The Pick of Destiny. From their wildly-infectious, personality-bursting acoustic guitar power chords finding fame in Guitar Hero III’s sensational run, Tenacious D has become a cult favorite band reminiscent of the great lost rock era. Lead singer Jack Black had catapulted to ultra-stardom in Hollywood with roles in impressive-filmography blockbusters ranging from King Kong to School of Rock to Nacho Libre to Kung Fu Panda, yet the rest of the story had yet to be written for this band that’s now found Kryptonite – like its green ivory-glowing guitar pick – for the tired onslaught of modern horrific comedies in this subversive laugh-fest that’s actually pretty sophisticated in construct: A brilliant modern rock-opera parody with shrewd religious overtones, spectacular metal soundtrack, plenty of comedic cameos, & great stoner/buddy-cop B-movie gags + chemistry by real-life bandmates Jack Black and Kyle Gass.
The *unbelievably good* soundtrack and chemistry by JB x KG. Of course, what we all came to see: some mind-melting guitar licks rife with technicality-subversive innovation. What made Tenacious D such a breakout find and cult favorite is forefront on display in this tour-de-force trip through their greatest hits. The inimitable style and classic combination of Kyle Gass’ downright-prodigal talents indicative of classical Bach/Beethoven-brilliance fast-forwarded a few centuries, playing off Jack Black’s distinctive charisma & idiosyncratic comedic stylings that made him a superstar amidst surprisingly-skilled vocalwork and singing ability, makes for a sublime soundscape amongst the best I’ve ever heard in a rock comedy. Black and Gass’ stoner/buddy-cop/B-movie interplay and relationship center this film is something feeling tangible in life-like highlighting the struggle-full lifestlye of coming up as a musician while also making for a side-splittingly entertaining arc in how these two chemistry-flaunting bandmates and best friends found each other and became a band flipping everything from Kung Fu training principles while stoned like grabbing the remote to change the TV Guide to hilarious ridiculousness in gags like “cock-pushups”.
The Pick Of Destiny and cameos. The plot is spectacular as well with a phenomenal nostalgia-riddled trip through rock history and lore that any fan will go nuts over. Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Queen, The Who, Van Halen, and countless other rock gods are invoked in this journey on the beautifully-simplistic plot of trying to find a magical guitar pick crafted from the Devil’s tooth that allows its user to tap into Rock n’ Roll greatness – while the ultimate con man is lurking in plain sight trying to trick some fool into reuniting him with his lost piece as well. The film even takes you to the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and tons of exhibits of historic paraphernalia with a screenplay full of tons of musician tropes like talent vs. gimmicks, music vs. lifestyle, and when people lose that hunger and fire for the craft, also working in an entire landscape of top-notch comedic cameos from Ben Stiller to Jason Seigel to Tim Robbins to Amy Adams to Amy Poehler. Sensational.
The religious overtones and brilliance in rock-opera parody. Finally, the thing that perhaps impressed me most in this wildly-comedic good time is that it.. actually has a sophisticated backbone/undertone. Invoking operatic tenets and structure with roots embedded in pop culture rarely – if ever – talked about or given its due, the film truly plays on history with what feels like a 16th-century play you’d go to see in a theatre box in construction – only twisted to modern and savage comedic proportions full of hard-R f-words and adult-focused laughs. It’s one of the most innovative and impressively-intelligent modern comedies I’ve seen in that regard – satisfying both a nostalgic invocation of not only rock history but musical history juxtaposed against 1hr30 min of pure chuckles your side will be sore after watching.
Flaws include a slightly juvenile introductory flatulence cartoon gag, Kyle Gass’ introduction, and the ending song choice. The opening cartoon is a bit stupid and teenish not needing to be included as completely-separate to the story, Kyle Gass’ intro is a little shakily acted and pretentious (although correcting later to perfectly fine by film’s end), and ending a little sloppy deserving far better execution to match the rest of the film’s heights. The final battle is a bit abrasive and crude, but worst: an unforgivably-poor song choice they should’ve used the song that made them famous and was perfect for an epic final showdown rock-off with the Devil himself: The Metal. Why why WHY not use that iconic, face-melting riff there for what seemed like the best place for it ever to be found?
Overall, Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny is a side-splitting rock-opera that doubles as a B-movie adult-humor buddy-cop story surprisingly complete in its screenplay and development as well as an absolutely sublime metal soundtrack. Although I had heard of and been inducted into the cult of Tenacious D lovers after I rocked along to that game-changing nostalgic metal ballad in GHIII, this film cemented them as one of my new favorite bands and this one of the funniest and most impressively-nuanced in construction comedies I’ve seen in a while.
Official CLC Score: 8.7/10