The history of sketch-comedy troupes on the big screen has been mostly a trail of tears, from Kids In The Hall (Brain Candy) to Mr. Show (Run Ronnie Run) to the recurring characters who could barely sustain five minutes on Saturday Night Live (It's Pat: The Movie, A Night At The Roxbury, The Ladies Man). In virtually every case, strapping on the albatross of a 90-minute narrative didn't enhance the freewheeling inspiration that made the short sketches punchy and vital. To their credit, Tenacious D creators Jack Black and Kyle Gass have extended a thin conceit—two stoned slobs with acoustic guitars and delusions of rock grandeur—well past its expiration date. The joke never really improved after their first few HBO skits, but it's lasted them through a couple of albums, some hilariously ornate music videos, and now their own ramshackle movie, which survives (just barely) on the sweetness and self-deprecation behind their amusing cock-rock poses.
From the looks of it, a good 90 percent of The D's creative juices were expended on The Pick Of Destiny's brilliant opening sequence, which tells Black's origin story in the form of a rock opera featuring Meat Loaf and Dio. The other 10 percent is spread out over another variation on The D's never-ending quest to harness the devil's power and become the greatest band of all time. After running away from home, a young Black winds up broke in Hollywood, where he experiences an epiphany upon seeing Gass perform for loose change on the beach. K.G. agrees to take J.B. on as his roommate and protégé, and after a few rigorous training exercises in power slides and "cock pushups," they become an unstoppable duo. Or at least they would be if they were any good.
The Pick Of Destiny sends The D off on a quest to find a pick that raked the strings of rock's greatest guitarists, but like Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle and other bong-fueled adventures, it's more about the journey than the destination. Written by Black, Gass, and director Liam Lynch (Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic), the film tries to make up in enthusiasm what it lacks in creative inspiration, which is fitting for a pair that believes it's the greatest, yet can barely scrape itself off the couch. No doubt Tenacious D cultists will find plenty to like here, but considering Black's rise to actual, unironic stardom and the fake band's improbable five-year run, it may be time to retire the ax.