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Bravetown.

The unspoken grief of a small, patriotic rural town that refuses to talk about its combat dead is a heavy burden to slap on a formulaic city-kid-turns-rural-dance-team-into-champs dramedy.

But that's what the high-minded Bravetown attempts. An R-rated drama about drugs and remorse and death and kids questioning a town that's "good for nothing but turning out future soldiers," it's somewhat undercut by the whole Step Up/Footloose/Glee dance showcase that got it financed.

Lucas Till is Josh, a rising, drug-abusing DJ whose one drug-bust-too-many gets him shipped of by his onetime addict mom (Maria Bello) to live with the father he never knew.

Dad is played by Tom Everett Scott, with barely a line and not one decent scene to play. That's because Dad is a combat vet, and in Paragon, guys don't talk about the war they fought in and families don't talk about the sons, brothers and friends they've lost.

Josh Duhamel is well-cast as the psychotherapist the troubled-teen Josh is forced to visit. He's content to watch soccer matches and eat pizza during their sessions, until the kid starts to reach out, and the therapist is obliged to try and help. Not that the kid is having it.

"You learn that at shrink community college?"

The one thing the hip mixmaster might do to ft in is hip up the disastrous dance team, whose routines are as dated as their Avril Lavigne-laced dance track.

Mary (Kherington Payne, very good) is their control-freak captain. Even she recognizes the city boy with his mad mixes would be just the ticket to turn around their fortunes.

Mary takes Josh to a tree adorned with the medals of the town's fallen, a romantic concept (lit by kerosene lanterns) straight out of Nicholas Sparks. She suffered a loss, too. Her medicated, manic mother (Laura Dern, always sterling) is the only townsperson to talk about the dead. And she's in depressed denial herself.

Till, one of the new X-Men, isn't bad, although his character seems cut and pasted from assorted dance, music and troubled teen pictures. And there's good support surrounding him. But whatever its intent, Bravetown stumbles through a steady supply of contrivances designed to make the budget work and the storylines overlap. Relationships are abrupt, absurd legal expediencies push Josh into his dad's town's problems, Duhamel's shrink is a vet with a secret, all the dance team's contests are somehow staged on their home gym and the shattered town will be made whole at the foot of that tree of medals.

The result is an of-tone R-rated melodrama more suited to the unsophisticated PG-13 sentiments of a-kids-gotta-dance picture, or a romance novel, Nicholas Sparks without a beach.

In The D Train, Jack Black plays a guy who never forgot his first high school "man crush."

Dan Landsman was the awkward lump nobody remembers. And the object of his crush? The swaggering jock, the popular and talented hunk, king of the prom.

In high school back in the '90s, Dan was "D-Money, D-Dogg," but only in his mind. Even now, helping over-organize his suburban Pittsburgh high school's 20th reunion, the balding, aging once "cool" kids don't invite him for an afermeeting beer. His wife (Kathryn Hahn) pouts for him. That reunion is looking like a bust.

A late-night Banana Boat commercial gives him an epiphany, a vision of Oliver Lawless, the bronzed, semi-bearded god of their high school. Oliver is in LA, a Banana Boat "success" and a "celebrity." If Dan can get Oliver to commit, maybe more classmates will "like" their Facebook page.

The script sends The D-Train to LA in search of the elusive Oliver. Dan lies to his boss (Jefrey Tambor) to get their failing consulting company to cover the plane ticket. But Oliver (James Marsden, spot-on) somehow has nothing better to do than hang with Dan, dragging him to bars, serving him cocaine. And falling into bed with him.

AWK-ward. But then again, the whole movie is built around Dan's klutzy discomfort, another Jack Black "clueless about how uncool he is" character comedy.

Dan struggles to cover up his indiscretion, tries to get Oliver to cancel and failing that, adds lies upon lies to try and keep his house of cards from collapsing. Meanwhile, his teen son (Russell Posner) languishes, his pleas for advice about girls and sex and life falling on Dan's deaf and Oliver-obsessed ears.

Co-writer/directors Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul cover Chuck & Buck territory, no surprise given that Chuck writer/star Mike White is a producer and supporting player here. D-Train lacks the creepy edge of Chuck, and without that, it's just a slow-footed farce built around improbable lies and an even more improbable "moment of weakness."

Marsden never takes Lawless "out there" enough to make him funny. His small-fish-in-the-Hollywood-pond stuff feels more accurate than hilarious.

And Black, aging out of his irrepressible nerd-cool persona, earns our sympathy but few laughs as this clod experiencing a dark prom/reunion night of the soul.

He and the filmmakers never find a tone that works in this R-rated treatment of a PG-13 idea. Every F-bomb, every sex gag or sexual comment, feels like an overreach and Dan just another Black character hoping the cool kids shine a little light his way.

By Roger Moore
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Title Annotation:MOVIES
Author:Moore, Roger
Publication:Investigate HIS
Article Type:Movie review
Date:Jun 1, 2015
Words:879
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