Written by Pedrastro del Diablo
Not everything from the Apatow cannon can be a winner. For proof, look no further than Drillbit Taylor. Though, it isn't a full-on Apatow production, they don't hesitate to mention his name on it. Smart move, but it doesn't save the film. But wait a minute…it's not a terrible movie. With films like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad, the bar was set pretty high, even without trying it seems. You have an entertaining cast of characters and a story that's somewhat enjoyable, so why is this different from the previously mentioned films? It just doesn't seem genuine or focused enough, really.
Drillbit Taylor revolves around two boys, Wade (Nate Hartley) and Ryan (Troy Gentile), who start high school and unfortunately start getting harassed by two bullies, Filkins (Alex Frost) and Ronnie (Josh Peck), almost immediately. When things get too much to handle (and the bullying is pretty intense), they decide to hire a personal bodyguard. Enter Drillbit Taylor (Own Wilson), a homeless beggar who answers their ad and pretends to be trained in martial arts and the like so he can swindle the kids out of their money and then split to Canada. But of course, he has a change of heart and starts to care about the kids and in the process the kids learn a thing or two about who they are and how to stand up for themselves. Sound a bit predictable? Well, yeah, it is. You know some lesson is going to be learned. It's a formula done to death, it's just how you pad it and treat it that can separate it from the rest. Drillbit tries, but doesn't quite make it.
While watching the first 30 or so minutes of this film I thought, "Hey, this isn't so bad. I wonder why it was panned?" Then somewhere after the mid-point I found myself a bit bored and amazed that there was still an hour left of the movie. It seems to just drift along in the middle and just keeps going. There are very funny lines and moments, but it just seems a little unfocused. There's even an 8 Mile freestyle-rap battle between Ryan and Filkins that had me groaning and rolling my eyes. It's hard to imagine Seth Rogen wrote that terrible scene. Yet somehow I feel some people will love it and probably quote it. Awkward white-guy rap just ain't my joint, dig?
Then there's the overblown cliché's. Nerds and bullies, it's something you've seen a million times, especially in the past 30 years. Drillbit Taylor is actually based on an original idea by John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, Pretty In Pink, do I even need to name?), and there are definitely elements of his style in this film, he practically perfected and pushed that classic nerds/poor kids vs. popular/rich kids cliché over the edge. Was it enjoyable? Yes. It's a sweet, sweet guilty pleasure. But now it just seems a little too unrealistic or overblown. Not to say it doesn't exist (I had my fair share of terrifying name-calling and bullying growing up), but it just seems like a paint by numbers routine at this point. Writers Seth Rogen and Kristofor Brown took Hughes' idea and fleshed it out. With Rogen helping with the writing you would expect more from this film especially from the work he did with Superbad, which to me seemed closer to my high school experience than any teen film previous to that, but it just falls short. Sure, it's unfair to compare it to Superbad standards, and I didn't entirely, but the end result leaves you a little unsatisfied.
What makes this movie enjoyable are the kids (who are perfectly casted), the supporting cast and cameos made throughout the film. You see three of the four members of the Upright Citizens Brigade make appearances and deliver some funny lines (especially Ian Roberts as Wade's step-father) as well as other talented comedic actors (Stephen Root, Beth Littleford, David Koechner, Cedric Yarbrough, and Kevin Hart). But the best supporting actor in this film is Danny McBride as Don, the homeless "friend" of Drillbit Taylor. You might recognize Danny McBride from the film Hot Rod or from his own hilarious film The Foot Fist Way. The deleted/extended scenes and the Line-O-Rama extra features are worth a look just for McBride's improvised lines alone. It wouldn't surprise me if he ends up being the next Steve Carell or Seth Rogen in the ever expanding and powerful Apatow universe. But as far as Owen Wilson goes, it doesn't matter much. There probably could have been a better casting choice because ultimately Wilson didn't really bring much to it. Not that it required a great deal of acting prowess; it just could have been better.
Overall Drillbit Taylor is something you might want to catch on a rainy Saturday afternoon on cable, but other than that it just falls short of its possible potential. No one's really to blame. You had the talent behind it, but it just doesn't quite stick. If anything, the DVD is worth a rent for the extra features "The Writers' Chance to Talk: Kristopher Brown and Seth Rogen," "Deleted and Extended Scenes," and "Line-O-Rama," mainly because the funniest moments are from these. If your fan of any of the cast or people involved with Drillbit Taylor, then you might want to check it out to quench that curiosity, but be wary, it won't be that fulfilling.