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Overall Rating
1.85

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 39.39%
Pretty Bad: 6.06%
Total Crap54.55%

4 reviews, 9 user ratings


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Drillbit Taylor
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Not "Superbad," Just Bad"
1 stars

“Drillbit Taylor” is like “Never Back Down” with fewer laughs and even less of a reason to exist. With most unsuccessful comedies, you can at least understand what elements were supposed to be funny and speculate on how they might have worked in the hands of filmmakers with a keener sense of wit and comic timing. Here, however, that is not the case–as the film drags itself along through its ramshackle plotting and strangely cruel and sadistic tone, you may find yourself wondering how any of the people involved with its production could have thought that any of the material that they were putting on film was hilarious either to themselves or to a paying audience. It is a real bummer, a creepy little attempted comedy that seems to earnestly suggest to its audience that violence really is the answer to life’s problems–especially if you are lucky enough to have your oppressor do something wildly out of character and totally illegal right in front of the police during the last few minutes in order to bring the story to a happy conclusion for all.

The film starts off on the first day of high school for the awkward and gangly Wade (Nate Hartley) and the fat and brash Ryan (Troy Gentile). They have hardly arrived when they cross paths with school bully Filkins (Alex Frost) and sidekick Ronnie (Josh Peck) when they interfere with their attempts to insert pocket-sized geek Emmit (David Dorfman) into the nearest locker. As a result, the two psychos vow to make their lives a living hell and begin a regular series of cruelties on the trio. When they discover that Filkins has the clueless principal (Stephen Root) wrapped around his finger and, as an emancipated minor, has no authority figure to report to, our beleaguered heroes hit upon the idea of hiring a bodyguard to neutralize their tormentor once and for all. During the audition process, however, they quickly realize that even semi-competent bodyguards are out of their price range and they are about to give up all hope when ex-soldier Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson) comes in to met with them. Although he seems more like a overage slacker than the military-made killing machine that he claims to be (he says he was drummed out of the service for “unauthorized heroism”) and his descriptions of the horrors that he has witnessed will sound more than a little familiar to fans of a certain Harrison Ford cult classic, the kids hire him with the money that they have pooled together and he begins a training program for which the phrase “half-assed” seems to have been invented.

What the kids don’t realize is that Drillbit is actually a bum who lives in the woods, showers on the beach and spends his days spare-changing in the streets–to him, his charges are just an easy way of earning enough money for a plane ticket to Canada through bilking them of their allowance money and pilfering valuables from their homes to hock at the local pawnshop. However, like most derelicts in family-oriented comedies (at least the ones with top billing), Drillbit is a decent sort at heart and when some of techniques result in even more abuse for the kids, he decides to take charge and goes undercover at the school as a substitute teacher in order to surreptitiously protect them from harm. For a while, everything goes swimmingly–the kids are safe and happy, the bullies get a taste of their own medicine from the new gym teacher and Drillbit even catches the eye of sexy English teacher Lisa (Leslie Mann)–so of course, it is only a matter of time before it all falls apart. Before long, Drillbit is exposed as a fraud and dumped by Lisa, Filkins becomes even more brutal in his torments and Wade’s home is robbed by a bunch of Drillbit’s fellow bums who want in on what they perceive as his big score. I wouldn’t dream of revealing what happens next but if you are convinced that the film ends with Drillbit slinking off into the sunset with his tail between his legs, Filkins administering the kind of tortures that could earn him a commendation from Dick Cheney and Wade’s family bereft of their couch and big-screen TV, you might actually want to see “Drillbit Taylor” in order to experience a multitude of surprises.

“Drillbit Taylor” has the look and feel of a cloddish youth comedy from two decades ago and in that respect, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to discover that it was originally written by John Hughes before falling under the auspices of comedy kingpin Judd Apatow, where it was rewritten by Kristofor Brown (who worked on Apatow’s brilliant TV series “Undeclared”) and the increasingly ubiquitous Seth Rogen. (Hughes retains a story credit under his nom-de-“how dare you rewrite the genius who gave you such pearls of wit as ‘National Lampoon’s Class Reunion’ and ‘Reach the Rock’”of Edmond Dantes, in an homage to “The Count of Monte Cristo” that the estate of Alexandre Dumas could probably live without.) Anyone hoping for the combination of sly wit, outrageous humor and deeply detailed characterizations found in previous Apatow productions, especially such high-school sagas as “Superbad” and the wonderful “Freaks & Geeks,” is going to come away from this one feeling mighty disappointed. For the most part, the jokes aren’t very funny–because it is presumably being pitched at a younger audiences, the studied raunchiness of previous Apatow productions has been removed but not replaced with anything else–and the more sentimental portions where Drillbit shows that he is a nice guy after are even worse. The script is also surprisingly disjointed as it introduces subplots that we assume are going to pay off later (such as Wade’s conflicts with his new stepfather, a former bully who can’t understand why his stepson would disobey the “natural order” by defending someone from bullying) and then just leaves them dangling without any sort of resolution. In the worst example of the latter, the film goes through all the trouble of bringing the wonderful Leslie Mann (you’ll recall her as the sister-in-law from “Knocked Up”) into the proceedings and then essentially forgets about her at a key moment until dragging her back in for a final scene that is so superfluous that you’ll wonder why they bothered. For auteurists, the only real comparison between this film (which was actually directed by Steven Brill, the genius who gave us the likes of “Little Nicky” and “Without a Paddle”) and previous Apatow efforts is that this film also has a running time that is far too long for its own good, even though it clocks in at a relatively short 102 minutes.

And yet, these problems are likely to be overlooked by most discerning viewers because “Drillbit Taylor” has a few flaws that are far more noticeable and damaging. For one thing, the bullies are depicted here not as ordinary punks but as the kind of flat-out sadists who would give even the guys from “Funny Games” pause–their depravations are so beyond the pale (including trying to run our heroes over with a car and going after them with a samurai sword) that they pretty much kill whatever head of comedic steam the film has built up whenever they appear. For another, our teen heroes are a singularly unlikeable and unmemorable lot–they have clearly been designed to serve as precursors to the characters from “Superbad” (to the point where the film could almost serve as a prequel, albeit one that serves “Superbad” in much the same way that “Dumb and Dumberer” did for “Dumb and Dumber”) but they have none of the humor or charm of the guys from that film. (They are so one-note and vaguely irritating, in fact, that even the most mild-mannered audience members might not necessarily disapprove with the notion of shoving them into a locker or two.) Then there is the fact that the character of Drillbit Taylor simply isn’t very funny or believable. Okay, Owen Wilson does manage to score the occasional laugh with his extra-dry and decidedly off-kilter line readings but he is never convincing either as a tough-as-nails type (not even as a parody of such) or as a down-on-his luck bum–he is supposed to be truly desperate and down on his luck but he merely drifts through the proceedings with such a nonchalant air that he makes your typical Matthew McConaughey character seem moody and introspective by comparison.

What really annoyed me about “Drillbit Taylor” is the way that it wholeheartedly endorses the concept that the only real way to deal with a bully is to beat the crap out of them in the final reel. As the film progressed, I kept hoping that the film would figure out some way of subverting this notion and allowing its heroes to triumph while still retaining their innocence and humanity–why else would Apatow & Co. sign on for this in the first place?–but as it went on and on, it became all too apparent that such a twist was never going to appear. Instead, they spend their time stacking the deck so heavily that by the time the final reel comes along, even Michael Haneke might find himself cheering for Filkins’ destruction. (Not that I want to sit here and pat myself on the back, but the notion of Michael Haneke sitting through the likes of “Drillbit Taylor” is actually funnier than anything found in the film itself.) Just in case you think I am indulging in some wild flight of fancy, there are some films that I could name that have done just that. One is the lovely 1980 sleeper “My Bodyguard,” a film that contains the same basic premise as “Drillbit Taylor” but also includes moments of real humor and real humanity. (I know that Apatow and the gang have seen that film because one of the few truly funny bits to be had here is an explicit shout-out, though to reveal any more would kill the joke.) Another film I could mention, one that will be coming out in a few weeks, is “Redbelt,” the great new work from David Mamet. In it, there is a character played by Chiwetel Ejiofor who is a mixed-martial arts expert who refuses to fight in competitions because they go against his personal code of honor and ethics and while I won’t go into specifics, I will say that Mamet brilliantly figures out a way of presenting audiences with what they want (a big brawl in the final reel) while remaining true to the character that he has created. That is a great movie and while I know that it is silly to compare a work from David Mamet to a goofy kiddie movie, the simple fact is that while both tell the same kind of story, Mamet does it with far more intelligence, grace and skill than the people behind “Drillbit Taylor.” Oh yeah, Mamet’s jokes are funnier as well.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=17075&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/21/08 15:00:00
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User Comments

7/24/08 Shaun Wallner boring! couldnt watch the whole thing. 1 stars
7/07/08 action movie fan so so occasionly funny film but my bodyguard was much more intesne 1 stars
7/05/08 PAUL SHORTT ITS COMEDY FALLS FLAT, AND THE FILM HAS A VIOLENT CORE WHERE ITS HEART SHOULD BE 1 stars
5/17/08 Anthony Feor At times too slow and boring, and those factors are like cement shoes for this film. 2 stars
4/07/08 Stephanie Bruce Not really my kind of movie, didnt like it 1 stars
3/28/08 dc shuck ok, finny parts 3 stars
3/28/08 EY What do you expect from a movie titled Drillbit? 2 stars
3/28/08 Ima Felcher Chainsaw His Fukkin Head Off Taylor, More Like 1 stars
3/21/08 Heather Marie dodo brain 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  21-Mar-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 01-Jul-2008

UK
  N/A

Australia
  20-Mar-2008



[trailer] Trailer


Directed by
  Steve Brill

Written by
  Chris Brown
  Seth Rogen

Cast
  Owen Wilson
  Alex Frost
  Casey Boersma
  Dylan Boersma
  Troy Gentile
  Nate Hartley



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