Drillbit Taylor

Reviewed By Lybarger
Posted 03/21/08 21:00:00

"Everything Judd Apatow touches does not turn to gold."
1 stars (Total Crap)

In the last four years, producer-writer-director Judd Apatow has made a name for himself by steering projects like 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin' and 'Knocked Up' that were as witty as they were crude. In his best efforts, the filmmaker is able to smartly juggle frat boy irreverence with compassion for his goofball characters. With 'Drillbit Taylor,' however, Apatow hands the reins over to his protégés and replaces his delicate balancing act with a steep, sudden fall.

Apatow is only credited with producing on this venture. His collaborators have clearly not brought their A-game to the proceeding and are stuck with a curiously uninspiring setup. The script penned by “The Breakfast Club” director John Hughes (under the pseudonym “Edmund Dantes”), Kristofor Brown and Seth Rogen (of “Superbad” fame) is unfocused and never reaches its intended comic highs.

A trio of high school freshmen (Troy Gentile, Nate Hartley and David Dorfman) finds themselves constant targets for a pair of bullies named Filkins and Ronnie (Alex Frost and Josh Peck).

With a principal who thinks the sadistic Filkins is a misunderstood saint, the only recourse the three lads have is hiring a bodyguard with their meager allowances. After a parade of internet candidates who are as unamusing as they are unavailable, the three settle on a homeless man in ratty-looking fatigues named Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson).

Trying to find humor in homelessness is a tricky proposition. Chaplin’s Little Tramp worked beautifully, but even the great Mel Brooks had difficulty with “Life Stinks.” It doesn’t help that Wilson’s usual laid-back charm is missing from this debacle. Occasionally, the star can overcome weak material with an “aw-shucks” shrug. Not here.

The actor’s reported suicide attempt after working on “Drillbit Taylor” is unfortunate, so out of decency, I’ll avoid making an obvious wisecrack.

Drillbit hopes to use his newfound status to rob the youngsters’ upwardly mobile parents. Because his motives are suspect and the bland, whiny leads are unsympathetic, it’s hard to be amused by their antics, much less interested.

Director Steven Brill, who in addition to penning the boilerplate-based “Might Ducks” films has cursed us with “Little Nicky” and the unforgivable remake of “Mr. Deeds,” has little sense of pacing, causing the film to drag from one anticlimax to another. It takes a seeming eternity for Drillbit to go “on-duty,” and when he does, it feels as if the writers had forgotten their own punchlines or payoffs.

There’s also a mean-spiritedness that runs throughout the film that blunts even some of the few serviceable gags. Because none of the characters feel either real or even interesting, it’s hard to get involved in their triumphs or tragedies.

Rogen was a co-screenwriter for the raunchy “Superbad” and “Da Ali G Show,” so he knows his way around dirty jokes. “Drillbit Taylor” has a PG-13 rating, and the filmmakers can’t seem to decide if they’re making a film for youngsters or stunted adults. There are gags involving urine and other body functions, but the movie feels flat because the filmmakers can’t seem to find effective comedy that won’t make parents ashamed of themselves.

If Apatow wants to be remembered fondly, he might want to think twice before backing another throwaway turkey like this one. Of course, he could borrow a name from “The Count of Monte Cristo” as former teen film king John Hughes has done.

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