Green grass and high times
"THC: The Audience Is Baking."
With that opening-credit exhalation in the face of George Lucas, Tenacious D (that's Jack Black and Kyle Gass) and director Liam Lynch (Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic) offer up a none-too-subtle theory about what might be going on in the theater parking lot prior to any given screening of Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, a film about how The D became The Greatest Band on Earth. And not to be blunt, but it's likely a case of the pot calling the pipe black, judging from the half-baked ideas packed into this exuberantly tasty rock operetta.
Pick of Destiny departs from Kickapoo, MO, where a Weeble-shaped kid sporting a Black Sabbath shirt is arguing through song with his fundamental Christian dad (played by Meat Loaf in the most obvious casting ever) about the importance of loud music. "Now go, my son, and rock" is the advice dispensed by the poster of Ronnie James Dio (same lush pipes, same repugnant mug), so the boy straps his guitar across his back and lights out for Hollywood. He surfaces on the West Coast as the full-grown --- but no less juvenile --- JB (Black, reliably manic), falling under the tutelage of arrogant rock god KG (the unfortunately named straight man Gass). KG schools the eager manchild in the art of the powerslide and the importance of "cock push-ups." Then, after JB calls his bewigged bluff, aligns with his former student to form a band called Tenacious D.
The aforementioned skills will prove hilariously handy (there really are some things you can't unsee) during Tenacious D's marijuana-fueled quest to locate the titular pick, which they believe to be the key to greatness. They're aided in their mission by an overly dramatic clerk at GuitarCenter (a frizzy Ben Stiller), who tells The D where to find the pick, reportedly the tooth of the Devil. So Pick of Destiny becomes a road movie, featuring a bimbo-induced rift, a car chase, plus a bongload of cameos, like John C. Reilly as Sasquatch (um, there's a mushroom incident as well), an über-hammy Tim Robbins as a Dracula-accented musician also on the tooth's trail, and Foo Fighter Dave Grohl as Mephistopheles himself, back to reclaim his former chopper via the requisite rock-off.
It'll be interesting to see how Black does as Kate Winslet's love interest in next month's romantic comedy The Holiday, because he's forged a career out of being JB, that frenzied energy alternating with plump stoner serenity, those wicked eyebrows threatening to jump right off his otherwise cherubic face. And while Gass may not get the choicest lines, he is a phenomenal guitarist, and Tenacious D is all about the music anyway. The lyrics rival those of the South Park gang in both cleverness and profanity, whether Black is singing about "rocking and fucking rolling" to Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 or making some chick "gargle mayonnaise" (no, not... you got it).
Pick of Destiny is stupid, silly, forgettable fun --- perfect counterprogramming to the cerebral film glutting theaters at year's end --- but you don't actually need to be high to enjoy it. I myself was not in any way recreationally altered when I saw the movie, although lately I have been huffing stuffing.
Conversely, those who indulge might want to sober up for The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes, lest the good people at the Dryden Theatre be burdened with mopping your blown minds up off of their nice floor. The second feature film by cult filmmakers Stephen and Timothy Quay (1994's Institute Benjamenta was their first) is a trippy fairytale rooted in German Expressionism about a mad scientist, his captive opera singer, and the smitten piano tuner who is a dead ringer for the diva's lost love.
Piano Tuner's storyline, however, is secondary to its ghostly imagery, a fever dream of silent-film faces (especially the lusty Assumpta Serna as the enigmatic housekeeper), washed-out colors that bring to mind a living daguerreotype, as well as the Quays' singular brand of stop-motion animation, which derives its intricate inspiration from the bizarre work of Czech surrealist Jan Svankmajer (his Lunacy screened at the Dryden a couple weeks back). Probably best known for their video work (they did Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer," among others), the Quays are often miscredited with those haunting, sepia-toned Tool videos from the mid '90s, featuring cracked doll faces and pulsating meat. That's because everyone has their disciples.