DRILLBIT TAYLOR (2008)
Starring Owen Wilson, Leslie Mann, Troy Gentile, Nate Hartley, David Dorfman, Danny R. McBride, Josh Peck, Alex Frost, Leslie Mann, Stephen Root, Lisa Ann Walker, Beth Littleford, David Koechner, Janet Varney, David Bowe, Lisa Lampanelli, Frank Whaley and Adam Baldwin.
Screenplay by Seth Rogen and Kristofor Brown.
Directed by Steven Brill.
Distributed by Paramount Pictures. 102 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Sometimes too much work isn’t a good thing. When you release something new every few months, the law of averages says that at least some of it has to stink, right?
Take Judd Apatow. In his rush to become the John Hughes of the new millennium, he and his buddies have been behind some of the best comedies of recent years – including The Forty Year-Old Virgin, Superbad and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. However, he’s released his share of junk, too – Fun With Dick and Jane, Talladega Nights, Kicking and Screaming and Walk Hard.
Lately, Apatow’s number one go-to guy is Seth Rogen – who is also overworked. This is the third film that he has co-written released under Apatow’s wing in about a year – following Knocked Up (good, but not great) and Superbad (pretty darn close to great). And the release of a fourth, Pineapple Express, is coming up quickly. Seth was due a stinker too – and Drillbit Taylor is it. Ironically, Rogen may have realized that it wasn’t worthy, because it is the only one of the four that he does not appear in as an actor. (The trailer for Pineapple Express gives the impression that there may be two straight stinkers, but I’ll reserve judgment until that film is actually released.)
Drillbit Taylor is essentially a remake of an infinitely better movie, the 1980 comedy/drama My Bodyguard. That was about a nerdy new student in a high school, played by Carter-era almost star Chris Makepeace of Meatballs. He hires a hulking antisocial classmate (Adam Baldwin, who has never been a star but worked steadily over the years) to protect him from a sadistic bully (a mostly unknown at the time Matt Dillon, fresh off of his breakthrough role in Little Darlings.)
In fact, the cleverest moment of Drillbit was when they recruited Baldwin – the title character from that film – in a cameo as one of the applicants for the job who says, “Kids hiring a bodyguard to take care of a bully? Stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
Also recognizing that he has swiped someone else’s storyline, Rogen tries to make it a little more his own by stealing from his own movie Superbad for the three lead characters – a shy, brainy kid, a fat mouthy kid and an über-nerd who doesn’t realize his own nerdiness. (Sorry, Ethan. My man, you are no McLovin….)
Of course, when a movie does a wholesale steal of older films’ plots it always leaves one wondering, why not just watch the originals? What does this film have to add that the others were lacking?
The only thing it really has is Owen Wilson – and that is not nearly enough.
In fact, this film does hold a rather tragic place in the inexplicably popular comic actor’s body of work – this was the film that he was making last year when he tried to kill himself. Not that I’m trying to make a connection, mind you – I’m just saying….
The one connection that can be made is that Wilson looks tired, distracted and bored throughout the whole thing. Only part of this can be attributed to the fact that he is supposed to be a homeless con man.
Of course, even this part of the character makes absolutely no sense. He is supposed to be an AWOL soldier trying to keep a low profile and at the same time he is living in the woods of Santa Monica and regularly showering completely naked at a fully exposed public beach shower. People mention how unkempt and smelly he is and he is always going on about how little money he has – and yet he and his vagrant buddies regularly hang out at some of the priciest outdoor cafés on the Third Street Promenade without anyone complaining.
I suppose it is okay to come up with a stupid situation if you do something interesting with it – however all that happens in Drillbit Taylor rings false. Even Leslie Mann – Apatow’s wife and an actress who stole scenes in The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up – seems oddly muzzled by an absurd character and storyline.
You just keep coming back to the same question. Why bother to see Drillbit Taylor when My Bodyguard is easily available on video?
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 19, 2008.