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Drillbit Taylor

Genre: , ,

Cast: Owen Wilson, Alex Frost, Casey Boersma, Dylan Boersma, Troy Gentile, Nate Hartley

Director: Steve Brill

Rated: PG-13

Release Date: July 1st, 2008
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Overall Grade: C

Drillbit Taylor

Review By: Staff

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Drillbit Taylor

Drillbit Taylor is the first project from Team Apatow that feels too much like formula. Yes, the brilliant movies of the past few years (The 40 Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up) have all been well within the confines of their genre, but this latest Owen Wilson vehicle packs little punch and lacks any true heart. The casting and the structure of the story are taken straight from one film (Superbad) and inserted to a train with no steam. Is the well getting dry? Or is this dud just a misstep?

In their defense, screenwriters Seth Rogen and Kristofor Brown admit that the studio tampered with the script. Apparently, the writers wanted a first act with Wilson completely absent, void of the title character for the first 30 minutes. Insiders will tell you this is a big no-no in Hollywood. Thus, the two were forced to go back and rewrite the first pages of a script they were happy with and return with something different. As explained in an interview, Rogen and Brown thought the first act felt a bit disjointed.

Sadly, this sort of thing happens all the time in the biz. Sidney Lumet reports in his invaluable book Making Movies, "I come from the theater. There, the writer's word is sacred. Carrying out the writer's intention is the primary objective of the entire production." This is not the case for some executives in Hollywood who see new ideas as a risk and the writer's word as a liability.

The first act of Drillbit Taylor is not so much disjointed as it is unoriginal. The first 30 pages or so of the movie are shamefully constructed in paint-by-numbers fashion. They set-up a film that never really gets going despite a few spotty laughs scattered here and there.

Problems in the script are not aided by a lack of ingenuity in the casting process. The three teenagers in the film are so obviously modeled after the three kids from Superbad that it is often painful to watch. One child has to walk, talk, and act exactly like Seth Rogen (See Jonah Hill). His best friend needs to be tall, lanky, and awkward (Michael Cera does it best). They both have an annoying super-nerd who follows them around, who they do not consider their friend but keep around for laughs and pity (He is no McLovin). Part of making good ideas last a while is to hide the formula behind the magic. Drillbit Taylor wears it on its ragged army clad sleeves.

The film follows these three self-proclaimed nerds into their first days of high school. Here, they fall into the wrath of two hideous bullies who live off of the day-by-day screams of

their victims. These guys are true professionals too. They are able to continual beat up the boys without a single teacher or administrator seeing anything at all. When the group goes to the principle for help, he trusts the bully and considers the boys naïve. Is this a commentary on the lack of discipline in schools (See Gloucester, MA)? No, the absence of adult interference exists because the plot requires it.

The boys enlist the title character to protect them from the evildoers. Taylor, a former soldier who went AWOL after only a short time in duty, sees working for the kids as an opportunity. He is homeless, living in tents with a view of West Coast beach nearby. The kids are rich. If he works for them long enough, he can scam enough money from them to get to Canada with some of his other homeless buddies.

This sets up a very unconvincing progression through a series of incredibly tired sequences. Taylor eventually learns to value the friendship of the boys and comes into conflict with a homeless friend about stealing from them. He fakes a gig as a substitute and falls for another teacher (played semi-convincingly by Leslie Mann) who falls in love with him despite all odds. In the end, the bullies get tagged and everybody ends up friends.

Sorry if I ruined the movie for you. Fact is, a movie like Drillbit Taylor is out of surprises from the very beginning. I suspect any audience will be able to find the path the film leads them long before the final credits roll. What a shame, because the idea and the brains behind it are too talented to let an opportunity like this one fall out of their hands. Let us hope the upcoming Pineapple Express and the studio who produces it offer us less of the same.

Despite the lack of laughs on the screen, the special features on the DVD show us that the cast and crew had tons of them on location. The extras include a phone conversation between the writers, a hilarious gag reel, a conversation with the director about working with the kids, and deleted scenes from the final cut. The material is rich in its density and makes the original source seem funnier than it actually ended up being. I am all for having fun on the set guys, but where did it all go?

Movie Grade: C-

DVD Features Grade: B-

Overall Grade: C

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