Release Date: March 21
Director: Steven Brill
Writer: Kristofor Brown, Seth Rogen
Cinematographer: Fred Murphy
Starring: Owen Wilson, Nate Hartley, Troy Gentile
Studio Information: Paramount Pictures, 102 mins.
Owen Wilson is a funny, charismatic actor, but the main reason I find myself drawn to his films is that he was also the co-writer of Wes Anderson's first three movies, and I'm always hopeful that he'll exercise that dormant skill. Drillbit Taylor is just a pale reflection of those films, made all the more frustrating by the way it frequently brings them to mind, but somehow it leaves its stain less on Wilson than on the fellows who are trying to harness his smirk and his persona without the delicate touch that Anderson and Wilson made look easy.
Those fellows are producer Judd Apatow and screenwriter Seth Rogen, the guys behind Knocked Up and Superbad. With a string of funny movies under their belts, they're undoubtedly on fire, but this one feels like something they could have done in their sleep.
Drillbit Taylor focuses on three boys who tangle with a bully during their first week in high school. We've seen these characters in Apatow and Rogen's other films (the curly-headed talker, the skinny good guy, the toothy geek), though we’re catching them a bit younger and more innocent this time. Truffaut followed his alter ego, Antoine Doinel, as he grew up, but Apatow and Rogen seem to be going the other direction.
To protect themselves from bullies, the guys end up hiring a bodyguard named Drillbit Taylor (Wilson), who is actually a homeless man who intends to make a quick buck and then head to Canada. "How about a British Columbian girl?" he asks one of his buddies. "Doesn't that sound like a pretty potent combination?"
It's a great line, delivered perfectly by Wilson, and along with the cute introductions of the characters, it gave me a false confidence that this would be another winning comedy. But it turned out to be the high point in a film that seems something less than half-baked. Directed by Steven Brill and co-written by Kristofor Brown of Beavis and Butt-Head, the film gives two dull villains far more screen time than they deserve and takes such a lazy approach to storytelling that contradictory, unexplained events are stacked on top of each other, set to music, and then expected to carry the final third of the film.
What looks like sheer laziness on the part of all involved might actually be an over-reliance on a handful of proven formulas with no clear way to merge and expand on them. Whatever the reason, Drillbit Taylor quickly loses what little momentum it establishes in those opening minutes, wilting under the glow of movies like Bottle Rocket, School of Rock, and even Superbad, each of which would deliver a significant wedgie to this awkward newcomer.