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Frat Pack Tribute Movie Review: Drillbit Taylor


Ryan, Wade and Emmit attend their first day at high school and they're pumped … until they meet up with Filkins, a school bully who comes off like a little Hannibal Lecter. Before they become completely engulfed in Filkins' reign of terror, they seek out some protection by placing an ad in Soldier of Fortune magazine. Their best response – and the cheapest - comes from Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson), a down-on-his luck soldier of fortune who lives a homeless - he likes to say "home free" – existence on the beach. He enrolls them in some physical and mental training.

Taylor goes undercover as a substitute teacher to protect the kids and falls for Mann who is a teacher at the school. Roberts (Talladega Nights, Anchorman) plays the kids' bullyish stepdad and Root (Dodgeball, Idiocracy) plays the principal at the school.


by Drew Hunt

Make no mistake about it -- Judd Apatow has ballsy comedies at an all-time high. His hard R romps are raking in the dough, with audience and critical acclaim to boot. The newest venture under the Apatow name is the Owen Wilson vehicle Drillbit Taylor, a film featuring three high school freshman and their attempts to thwart a couple of bullies by enlisting the help of "bodyguard", Drillbit Taylor, skilfully portrayed by the veteran farceur Wilson.

The three boys, nicely portrayed by Troy Gentile, Nate Hartley and David Dorfman, are more or less a watered down, PG-13 version of Seth, Evan and Fogel of Superbad fame, and the movie as a whole could oddly be interpreted as prequel to the 2007 hit. As a screenwriter, Seth Rogen seems to return to the well a little to obviously. While the film is funny and amusing in a number of ways, the script falters from a strong dose of predictability and flatness. Originally based off of a treatment written by the venerable '80s teen king John Hughes, there might not have been enough there for Rogen to work with, although it would be a poor excuse indeed. The fact remains the that film's dialog come off as lazy, and the entire product is significantly sub par compared to earlier works.

However, a skillful cast more than makes up for the lack of script. Gentile, Hartley, and Dorfman prove to be an assertive comedic team and keep up the film's pace with relative ease. Gentile, especially, has the chops to roll with the big dogs some day. Even with the constraints of PG-13, his delivery is altogether quick and relentless. As a trio, they carry the story well, even when Wilson isn't in the scene, and while there's less raunch and foul language when the three make their moves (compared to usual Apatow/Rogen fare), the awkward and familiar interactions they share are strong. The chemistry is obvious, much like there "senior year" counterparts in Superbad.

Wilson is spot on as Taylor, the homeless Army deserter who can talk the talk but never walks the walk. After the boys hire him for protection, his main goal is to make enough money off the impressionable youths to move to Canada, where, if you go far enough north, "the government pays you to take the land." Despite the weak script, Wilson takes what he can and makes it work splendidly. He's never been known as an actor with much range, but it's hard not to like the man in full-on slacker mode. It's true that each of his roles come off as mere stretches of the same personality, but it's hard to imagine anybody besides Wilson in this role (or as Dupree, or as a wedding crasher for that matter), and playing it as deftly as he does. Some may interpret this as a lack of talent, but the fact remains that nobody is better at being Owen Wilson than Owen Wilson, and Owen Wilson is damn hilarious. As Drillbit Taylor, there's no exception. In fact, he's something of a revelation here, making a mountain of a character out of a molehill of a script.

He certainly upstages his fellow Frat Pack brethren (and sharer of similar criticisms) Will Ferrel in this newest flock of solo films. Compared to Semi-Pro, Drillbit Taylor looks like a masterpiece.

The rest of the cast is equally effective. Leslie Mann plays the possibly nymphomaniacal Lisa, the object of Drillbit's affection and a teacher at the boys high school. She's oddly seductive here, coming close to explicit but never quite going there. Her comedic chops do not go unused, however, as she and Wilson share some great scenes (with the help of a Enrique Iglesias enthusiast and Jimi Hendrix lookalike, of course). As two members of Drillbit's homeless posse, Danny McBride and Reno 911!'s Cedric Yarbough bring some legitimate funny, the former more so. With each role, McBride builds his hype as his upcoming film The Footfist Way garners even more buzz. His recent supporting roles with his Frat Pack mentors have all been strong, and his pairing with Wilson is a smart one.

Making good on their requisite cameos are David Koechner and Matt Walsh -- both are quick, but amusing. Popping up in the same sequence is the foul-mouthed comedian Lisa Lampanelli, rounding out an opening scene that would have been all the better with Ben Stiller or Vince Vaughn giving Drillbit their "two cents".

Hitting theaters at a time when mass school shooters have have become commonplace in our headline news, some may find the film's themes and message somewhat offputting. Ultimately, the boys take the matter into their owns hands by confronting their attackers, suggesting that in order to beat the bully and get the girl, you need to be even more vicious, sneaky and nasty than they are. If misinterpreted, a more fretful mind could attribute this to some kind of vigilante justice, although they would be failing to see that said bully has legally emancipated himself, lives in his parents large suburban home while they live in China, and drives an $80,000 car; needless to say, the film does not exist in a normal kind of reality. And it shouldn't.

This playfulness is thankfully present in Rogen's script. Had the film taken a more serious approach to the dangers of bullying, and there been a more realistic resolution to the overall conflict, the experience would have been significantly less satisfying. Kudos should go to Apatow and director Steven Brill for keeping things light.

It's safe to say that Drillbit Taylor is the weakest effort from the Apatow camp to date -- which is still saying a lot, seeing as his weakest film still towers over every other comedy currently in theaters. As long as he surrounds himself with the capable actors and writers he has been, the man's Midas touch will remain as strong as ever.