Friday, March 21, 2008

Drillbit Taylor (*)

Directed by Steven Brill


The latest Judd Apatow comedy, Drillbit Taylor, deals with three bullied teenagers that hire a homeless, ex-military man to be their bodyguard. When the three boys first think over the idea, one of the boys, Ryan (Troy Gentile), exclaims "That's one of the stupidest ideas I've ever heard". Needless to say, most of the audience will feel the same way, and walk away pondering why they would then employ this very, very "stupid" idea.

Drillbit Taylor takes place in one of those Hollywood high schools where the nerdy and the not-so-nerdy are very easy to tell apart, and the bullies aren't perturbed young men with insecure complexes, but homicidal maniacs who attempt to run nerds over with their car. The nerds in question are the before mentioned Ryan, who's the usual pudgy smart-mouth, and his friend Wade (Nate Hartley) who's skinny figure leaves him victim to nicknames like "Skeletor". They eventually befriend the tiny, musical-loving Emmit (David Dorfman), who exudes nerdy-ness because he's short.

When a crazy bully named Filkins (Alex Frost) wreaks unspeakable (and unpunished) havoc on their lives, they decide to hire a bodyguard. Not only does this give the film an excuse to show a montage of unsuitable bodyguards, but it gives the kids the chance to meet Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson). Taylor is homeless, showers on the beach, and sees the three boys as a chance to make some cash, since he's saving some money to take a life-changing trip to Canada.

With ease, Drillbit penetrates the boys' high school as a substitute teacher, Dr. Illbit, and falls for the English teacher Lisa (Leslie Mann). Lisa seems to be the most unprofessional, nymphomaniacal teachers I've ever seen, as she hops into bed with Drillbit between classes, and then bemoans the fact that she "only attracts losers". Of coarse, Drillbit decides to leave his conniving plans behind when he decides that he actually cares about Wade, Ryan, and Emmit. The sentimentality isn't too forceful, but it's still enough to make you sick.

I guess I've become spoiled by films like Superbad and Juno, but it really angers me when people sit down to write scripts about high schools that NEVER existed. High schools where crazy students can punch substitute teachers with no consequence, and where that same crazy student makes the same remark to Wade after being provoked, "What? Do you think I'm dumb? Trying to get me in trouble?". It's all the more disappointing when you find out the film is co-written by Superbad's co-writer and co-star Seth Rogan.

What makes this film most irritating is this film's strange documentation of human behavior. What world does this take place? A world where supposedly smart, pretty English teachers give it up to temps who they've hardly known. A world that has a bully with no parents, yet drives a Bentley and lives in a mansion. And of coarse, a world were there are enough kicks to the crotch that you wonder how anybody produces children. Can someone please explain to me how two young boys punching each other (to learn how to "block out the pain") is funny?

Filkins, the extremely sociopathic, violent bully is played by Alex Frost, previously seen as one of the deranged killers in Gus Van Sant's meditation on school shootings, Elephant. Part of you expects Frost to begin wielding one of those M-80 rifles, since he spends most of the film darting eyes that make him look like a descendant of Charles Manson. But of coarse, he goes along unpunished, and even unscolded by anyone in school. I know it's a comedy, but are we really supposed to just buy this?

You may have noticed how I've avoided most discussion on the film's titular star, Owen Wilson. That's only because I wanted to discuss that on it's own. If anyone's ever seen Wilson's performances in his four Wes Anderson collaborations, you know that Wilson is a performer with great depth and incredible comedic timing. Yet, it seems, for the most part, his talent is left to rot on films with little to no point, and an extremely mistaken view of reality. Truth is, I gave the film one star for the few laughs Wilson's able to cook up in this abomination, but even he doesn't seem like he's enjoying himself too much. He has much more ability than say Vince Vaughn or Will Farrell, but why does he seem fixated on roles meant for those kinds of actors?

Overall, the film's laughs come few and far between. Judd Apatow has been living at the summit of film comedy for the last four years, but this film is really his first major blunder. There's nothing horrible or offensive in Drillbit Taylor, but maybe what makes this film so bland is it's lack of risks or variety. Every story line fits together with convenient erraticism, and not to mention the film's length. There was a time when films knew when they were supposed to be under 90 minutes long. This film has the cojones to go over a hundred.

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