All hail The Pick of Destiny

The dynamic rocking duo of Jack Black and Kyle Gass have long claimed to be the greatest hard rock band in the world. The punchline of their best jokes are the performers themselves — two overweight, slovenly doofuses with acoustic guitars stepping up to the stage at a dive bar’s open-mic night. “How can these two jokers be the best band in the world?” asks the crowd, preparing to throw tomatoes and beer bottles.

When Gass starts playing and Black starts singing, Tenacious D starts rocking, and suddenly you’re convinced: These guys have chops. The riffs are catchy. The lyrics are hilariously over-the-top: equal parts self-told history, party anthem, and dragon-slaying imagery. Jack Black is bouncing all over the stage, and — wait, did he just say that he wants to !@#$ you in your %$&^ with his $#@! of rock? You bet your @*%$ he did.

It’s this mix of witty lyrics, shredding riffs (on acoustic six-strings), vulgar banter, endearing megalomania, mystical allegory, and obsessive worship of classic rock that has allowed Tenacious D to function. They can make you believe that they are truly the best band in the world; the tragedy is that the rest of the world doesn’t know it yet.

Tenacious D first rose to fame on a series of HBO shorts that followed the duo as they attempted to get a record deal and wow the crowd at open-mic night. Tenacious D developed a rabid fan base from the shorts, but their career erupted like a Van Halen guitar solo with the release of their first album.

Tenacious D’s 2001 self-titled album is perhaps the greatest fusion of hard rock and humor ever created — This is Spinal Tap is the only possible comparison. Although the album carried on the D’s endearing mix of rock anthems and ribald chitchat (the themes of which can not be reprinted here since this is a family newspaper), the album’s production was the true shock: Like Bob Dylan at the 1965 Newport Festival, Tenacious D had gone electric.

Produced by the Dust Brothers, Tenacious D took both new and old material and cranked it all up to 11. Maybe even 11.5 or 12. The D used electric guitars and synthesizers for soaring highs and added drums, courtesy of Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, for punishing, earth-shaking lows. The album sounded about a million miles away from two guys with acoustics on open-mic night. At the same time, the beauty of the production was that the album probably sounded exactly like Tenacious D always imagined that they did in their heads.

It was an epic alteration of their core sound that likely earned the band 10 fans for every old fan they alienated. Although the songs were still mainly tributes to Black’s and Gass’ sexual prowess and rocking powers, the newly bombastic sound connected the album to the metal bands that influenced its creation. One song, “Dio,” even went so far as to demand that Ronnie James Dio (of Black Sabbath) step down so that Tenacious D could ascend to his throne.

This all worked beautifully in Tenacious D’s favor: The album sold briskly and produced four singles, including “Wonderboy” and “Tribute,” an ode to an unnamed greatest song in the world.

Enter 2006: After stealing the show in High Fidelity and starring in School of Rock, King Kong, and Nacho Libre, Jack Black is a movie star in his own right. Tenacious D had created the album they always wanted to make, so it was time to tell the story Black and Gass had always wanted to tell: theirs. The two rockers do exactly that in their upcoming feature-length film: Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny.

More Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle8 than *This is Spinal Tap, The Pick of Destiny once again retells the history of the band’s formation. Black flees his oppressive Christian upbringing in the Midwest for California, where he meets guitar virtuoso Gass. Gass offers to teach Black how to play guitar in exchange for what amounts to indentured servitude, and a band is born. But when the duo hear of a magical guitar pick made from the tooth of the devil that grants the user supernatural shredding skills, they begin a quest to break into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and steal the pick.

The movie is half musical comedy and half spaced-out road trip. At 90 minutes, the film stretches the limits of how much Jack Black one can take; however, there is enough inspired vulgarity here to make this one worth the price of admission. I don’t dare spoil any of the best jokes, but I will say that there are some enjoyable cameos by Meat Loaf, Amy Poehler, Tim Robbins, and even Ronnie James Dio himself. Paul F. Tomkins (reprising his role from the shorts as the indifferent open-mic host) absolutely steals the show with the two best lines (again, neither of which can be reprinted).

In sum, The Pick of Destiny is no Citizen Kane, but — let’s face it — you didn’t strap on your Gibson Flying V, your torn leather pants, and your AC/DC T-shirt to go to the ballet, did you? Tenacious D is in theaters now. Dress to rock out.