By Daniel Barnes
Mike White only co-produced and co-stars in the indie comedy The D Train, but the influence of his socially awkward loser comedies can be felt all over the film, especially the 2000 near-classic Chuck & Buck. Writing and directing team Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul, best known for penning the screenplay to the Jim Carrey comedy Yes Man, aren’t writers in the league of White, but they’ve created an entertaining facsimile, and they get excellent performances from their actors. Jack Black stars as Dan Landsman, a lonely family man and go-nowhere schlub who cheerfully chairs his hometown high school’s reunion committee, romanticizing his teenage years despite the fact that they seem as miserable and friendless as his present. When Dan catches sight of the school’s cool kid, Oliver Lawless (James Marsden, always so much better at spoofing his handsome boy modeling school looks than at playing them straight), in a national sunblock commercial, he becomes unusually obsessed. Dan hatches an increasingly complicated scheme to travel to California and meet Oliver, supposedly to lure him to the reunion as bait for the fellow classmates, but Dan’s man-crush grows increasingly lustful. There is an interesting and funny discourse here about sexual confusion and conquest, ego and image, guilt and desire, and the concepts of “sex = love” vs. “it’s just sex” before an avalanche of “Here’s what I learned” lectures takes over the last ten minutes.