Drillbit Taylor

Director    Steven Brill
Starring    Owen Wilson, Troy Gentile, Nate Hartley, David Dorfman, Leslie Mann
Release    21 MAR (US) 28 MAR (UK)    Certificate 12A
2 stars


26th March 2008

With comedy guru Judd Apatow on production duty and stoner du jour Seth Rogen credited as a co-writer, you might think this movie is a surefire smash: the last film that boasted those credentials made around $120 million. Unfortunately, Drillbit Taylor merely serves to represent the moment the 'Geek Clique' juggernaut hit its first speed bump. Owen Wilson won't be doing any press for Drillbit following his alleged suicide attempt last year, but perhaps it's just as well: this is one of his poorest efforts to date.

Wilson plays the titular Taylor, an ex-Army man turned homeless bum who showers on the beach, scrounges for cash and spends his ill-gotten gains on lottery tickets. Drillbit answers an ad for a personal bodyguard but finds himself sitting opposite three high school kids, desperate for protection from the school bully. Content to sponge pocket change off his pre-pubescent employers to finance his forthcoming trip to Canada, Taylor takes the geeky freshmen under his wing and vows to keep them safe from wedgies, wet willies and wiener bashings.

Any high school comedy lives or dies on its pint-sized protagonists, and Drillbit Taylor suffers badly in this respect. Meet the kids (and stop me if you've heard this one before); there's Ryan (Gentile), the crude tubby one with a perm; there's his skinny and stuttering best bud Wade (Hartley); and there's Emmit (The Ring's David Dorfman), their ultra-nerdy, gangsta rap-spouting cling-on. Any takers? Yes, their scenes play out like Superbad: The Early Years, only with a 12A rating, you won't blame the bullies for whaling on them. The three kids are all game but have nothing funny to work with - perhaps Rogen used up all his A-grade material on his other high school comedy.

And then there's Wilson. Capable of making the most average movie watchable with his very presence, he nonetheless struggles to raise Drillbit out of the doldrums. Leaning heavily on his tried and tested techniques - whispery voice, louche charm, lovable dorkiness - Wilson doesn't so much create a new character than cobble together various older ones; Drillbit's middle-name might as well be Dupree. His story arc seems him masquerading as a substitute teacher a la School Of Rock, where he proceeds to hit on colleague Leslie Mann - unfortunately, like the rest of the story, it's handled in a half-arsed and wholly unconvincing manner.

Drillbit Taylor isn't terrible by any means - Wilson is always good for a few laughs and the 'identical shirt' gag hints at a more knowing humour that's underused - but it's criminal to deliver an average movie with this much talent on board. The characters are so uneven it feels like two different movies awkwardly fused together - some get too much screen time (sorry kids) while others not nearly enough (the always lovely Leslie Mann). Wait for Forgetting Sarah Marshall for your next Apatow fix of funny, or just watch Superbad on DVD and bleep out the swearing. And the jokes. Ali

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