Devil-Music Nirvana 

Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny literally opens and closes with fart jokes (as fart jokes go, they're above average), and the rest of the movie is a complete gas -- 93 minutes of childish, imbecilic, prurient, and, most importantly, hilarious material.

The film stars Jack Black and Kyle Gass, reprising their alter egos, JB and KG, as members of the comedic power duo Tenacious D. The band made its debut on the small screen in their HBO show in the late 1990s and saw mainstream success with their self-titled album in 2001. That album was mostly a reworking of songs originally featured in their television skits. The film finds Tenacious D again retooling these same ideas, this time for the silver screen: Comedic imagery and song titles from the studio album ("Tribute," "Dio," even "Cock Pushups") occur as plot points in the film. In this way, Tenacious D hasn't had any new ideas for years. But such is the intrinsic worth of the band's concept -- an amorphous celebration of heavy-metal iconography, the F-word, self-aggrandizement, stoner laughs, and (there they are again) fart jokes -- that the horse doesn't appear ready to die just yet. Tenacious D still works not because they so perfectly capture the cheesiest elements of devil-horns rock but also because they reproduce them without a wink. They may be joking on some levels, but they also seem to genuinely think Tarot cards are awesome and that coming up with a tasty power chord is half the job of writing a great rock song. Their earnestness is winning.

The Pick of Destiny is essentially the Tenacious D origin story. It starts in classic rock-opera fashion with a young JB singing about how he's stuck in Kickapoo, Missouri, the rock-and-roller son of a holy-roller dad (Meatloaf). On advice from Ronnie James Dio -- it's that kind of movie -- JB goes to Hollywood to follow his fate to be the greatest rocker in the world. There, he meets KG, a guitar-playing busker who takes JB under his wing to teach him "the ancient secrets of rock": Lesson one is the Pete Townshend power slide.

By chance, JB and KG learn of the "pick of destiny," the "darkest secret in the history of rock," a talisman made from Satan's tooth which, when wielded by Robert Johnson, Townshend, Angus Young, and Eddie Van Halen, lent it's devil-music-making qualifications to their willing hands. Thinking themselves worthy heirs, JB and KG journey to find the pick.

Pick of Destiny is reminiscent of 2004's Anchorman in that the more outrageous the situation, the funnier the comedy. To wit, John C. Reilly cameos as Sasquatch (he's also credited as the film's "Sasquatch Researcher"), and grunge-rock survivor Dave Grohl squares off against Tenacious D as Satan (as man versus omnipotence goes, it's more in tune with "Devil Went Down to Georgia" than The Seventh Seal). Gass performs more than he acts, but Black's precise manic energy covers up Gass' faults even as Black takes pains not to overwhelm his partner. The pair has rehearsed a decade for this, the culmination of their vision, and despite all of their previous successes, Pick of Destiny is the best incarnation of Tenacious D yet.


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