Saturday, 12 March 2016

Bad Bromance

Sometimes, a film can be so badly marketed that the trailers and posters seem to be advertising a different film. This was definitely the case with Bad Bromance, originally known as The D Train and retitled for the UK DVD release – which is out now. In the trailer, Bad Bromance seems to be a wacky Jack Black comedy about middle-aged Dan (Black) trying to organise his high school’s 20 year reunion. When he learns one of the popular guys from his class is now a TV commercial actor, he scrambles to get him to the reunion thinking everyone else will follow. We see in the trailer that this actor, Oliver (James Marsden), does attend the reunion and all seems happy and fun.


But Bad Bromance is a different film. Sure, it has this stuff going on – the class reunion, the attempts to get Oliver to attend, etc. – but to label the film a comedy could be a stretch. Bad Bromance is a rather peculiar tale with some darkness and some shocks that, due to the poor marketing, are rather surprising. It’s not my place to say too much here but I feel I should say something happens between Dan and Oliver that pushes the envelope and creates a strange feeling that you’ve been tricked into watching a film you didn’t choose to watch. Bad Bromance transforms into a drama of confusion, emotion and insecurity. This isn’t to say Bad Bromance is a bad film – although it is certainly flawed. It just isn’t the fun film it claimed to be in its marketing.


Black and Marsden put in good performances, considering the unexpected turns of the narrative. Black plays it largely straight, with another rather depressing and tragic ‘loser’ character. Although he put in good performances in both Bernie and Margot at the Wedding, Black is certainly hiding a lot of talent under his wacky rocker façade. It’s unfortunate he doesn’t get enough chance to show this side of himself. But while he tries his best with the material, it does feel like maybe he’s a little miscast here. James Marsden is the highlight of Bad Bromance as the pretty-boy actor Oliver, whose insecurity is subtly portrayed beneath his “look how awesome I am” exterior. Kathryn Hahn and Arrested Development’s Jeffrey Tambor are alright too, and Dermot Mulroney shows up to play himself in an amusing scene.

But even with a decent cast, Bad Bromance can’t quite hit the notes it’s trying to. It’s hard to pinpoint where this problem lies, but I suppose it all boils down to Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul, who wrote and directed the film together. The film is a big confused mess, especially once that scene (you’ll know when you see it) has taken place. The rest of the film doesn’t seem to know how to follow it, which makes the scene itself feel even more jarring. If the film was built around it, it would’ve been very effective. And while it is brave for the stars to have done it in a film that’s being marketed as a mainstream Jack Black comedy, it is the way it is crowbarred in that makes it feel forced and uncomfortable.


When the film first screened at festivals, it caused a bit of a stir for the unexpected turn of events in the film – again, largely due to the confusing marketing. But the film has been strangely distributed since then. The cinema release was sporadic, and the DVD release comes under a different title. It’s possible that if Bad Bromance or The D Train had been marketed and released correctly it would’ve done a little better, but I guess it’s hard to market a film that doesn’t even seem to know what it is. Is it a comedy? A drama? A romance? All of the above? Or none of the above? Who knows.

Bad Bromance is an odd film. Although brave and original, too many flaws stop it from achieving greatness. 2/5.


★★☆☆☆

Sam Love



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