March 19, 2008

Drillbit Taylor

Freaks and Repeats

Grade: C –
Director: Steven Brill
Starring: Owen Wilson, Leslie Mann, Nate Hartley, Troy Gentile, David Dorfman, and Alex Frost
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

Ok, we get it – the teenage years were tough ones for Judd Apatow and the rest of his filmmaking cadre. As producer of Drillbit Taylor, Apatow works off an off-beat script cowritten by Seth Rogan and his Undeclared cohort Kristofor Brown to regurgitate their now-formulaic freaks & geeks coterie of a nebbish weakling (Nate Hartley), a McLovin-esque hyperdork (David Dorfman), and a rotund, foul-mouthed pal (Troy Gentile) who actually resembles a prepubescent Jonah Hill.

For a moment, set aside the rambling, rather inconsequential plot about a trio of hapless high school misfits who hire the titular homeless, Army deserter-cum-conman (Owen Wilson) as bodyguard to protect them against schoolyard bullies (led by Alex Frost) so merciless you begin to question the mental make-up of school administrators who allow the torment to continue unabated. The result is still a superbad, hit-or-miss mess that is only somewhat salvaged by Wilson’s trademark loopy adlibbing.

The rest of the would-be guffaws foisted by director Stephen Brill are endless, uninspired sight gags and high school freshmen who somehow reference 8 Mile and Blade Runner with equal aplomb. The female love interests range from Asian stereotypes (Valerie Tian, sporting the same specs from Juno) to oversexed loser-magnets (Apatow’s wife Leslie Mann, Knocked Up). Meanwhile, the rest of the women wandering through this comedic chasm are the perfunctory clueless moms and bleached-blond sun-worshipers whose only function is to pose for topless cell-phone pics with our preteens.

So bewildering is the story that by film’s end, destitute vets are fashioned into thieving villains and the presumptive crowd-pleasing climax is watching a thirty-something adult pummel an eighteen-year-old high schooler. Moreover, the vacuum at the film’s core is that its eponymous protagonist never rises above the level of an unabashed phony, fronting one false backstory after another. We never know who Drillbit Taylor really is – other than his Christian name is Bob – and as such never see the movie as anything other than another of Apatow and Co.’s cinematic exorcisms of adolescent angst.

Rarely has a movie’s advertising tagline been more apt: “You get what you pay for.”

Neil Morris

No comments: