DRILLBIT TAYLOR: 3 STARS
Ryan (Troy Gentile), Wade (Nate Hartley) and Emmit (David Dorfman) are pumped about their first day in high school. For them it is a new start; a chance to be cool, leave the geekiness of junior high behind and maybe meet or even touch some real live human girls. Their dreams of being too cool for school go pear shaped, however, when the school’s biggest bully, a psycho-in-the-making named Filkins (Alex Frost, one of the bullied kids in Gus Van Sant’s Elephant) focuses his attention on them. He’s a professional level tormentor who uses verbal, physical and psychological abuse to terrorize the boys.
The situation becomes so threatening the trio take desperate measures to save themselves—they place an ad for a personal bodyguard on the Soldier of Fortune website. After sorting through the mercenaries, Israeli secret service agents and hit men who reply they hire the cheapest applicant, Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson). The bodyguard claims to be adept in all forms of improvised weapons, skilled in covert black-ops and to have worked for three Vice Presidents, Bobby Brown and Sylvester Stallone. “Not quite as tough as he looks,” says Drillbit.
He sounds like the ideal person to solve their problem, but soon it becomes obvious he oversold his skill set, and is, in fact, just a Santa Monica homeless dude—he prefers to say “home free”—who was planning on stealing and robbing their parents’ houses. He tries to justify the robbery as doing the boys a favor. “Steal their TV,” he says, “and maybe they’ll read a book.”
On the upside the budget bodyguard does engage in a series of ridiculous boot camp exercises where he teaches the boys about “mind over pain” and instills a sense of confidence in them. “Teach the victim to beat up the bully,” he says, “and they will live forever. Steven Seagal said that.”
The evil Filkins is still a problem, however, so Ryan, Wade and Emmit use their newborn self-reliance to try to put an end to the bully’s reign of terror. The only question is whether or not Drillbit will discover his inner warrior and step up to the plate and help.
The original idea for Drillbit Taylor came from teen movie king John Hughes who dreamed up the treatment but never got around to writing the script. That job fell to Knocked Up’s Seth Rogen, comedy’s man of the moment and former Beavis and Butthead writer Kristofor Brown. For the most part they squeeze laughs out of a pretty thin concept, but ultimately Drillbit Taylor doesn’t work as well as last summer’s Superbad, another movie written by Rogen and starring a trio of teenage geeks. Why? Superbad had more heart. Superbad had more believable situations and better performances. No, Drillbit Taylor is no Superbad, it just isn’t up to that caliber, and like most of the Rogen-Judd Apatow collaborations it is a tad too long, but it isn’t a write-off.
A subplot with an English teacher who develops a crush on Drillbit thinking his name is Dr. Illbit is good for a few laughs and the interaction between Drillbit and the boys has its moments. I just wish the movie had more good hearty laughs. Superbad simply set the bar too high for this kind of film for Drillbit Taylor to seem like anything other than a pale imitation of comedy greatness.