The Apatow machine stumbles with Drillbit Taylor, a movie too bland to be either terrible or great. In short, it’s the epitome of mediocrity. John Hughes’ pseudonym Edmond Dantes is one of the credited collaborators on the story and the plot seems more of a throwback to the filmmaker’s later films of the 90s (Dutch, Curly Sue) than his cinematic teen milestones of the 80s (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club).
Drillbit Taylor is the story of three bullied teenage buddies – Wade (Nate Hartley), Ryan (Troy Gentile) and Emmitt (David Dorfman). When a bully named Filkins (Alex Frost) vows to torment the trio for a year, the boys come up with a plan to hire a bodyguard. The “interview montage” that follows contains the movie’s single inspired moment (it’s a cameo that won’t be spoiled in this review). Ultimately, they settle on one Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson), a former soldier who showers them with promises of security. When Drillbit doesn’t really manage to do a whole lot, it’s revealed he’s in fact homeless and trying to scrape together enough bread to make it to Canada.
Despite a screenplay by Seth Rogan (one half of the writing team behind Superbad) and Kristofer Brown (a veteran of Undeclared), nothing really sparks in Drillbit Taylor; the jokes are flat, the performances lackluster and the storyline takes way too much time to unfold (this is a long 109 minutes, folks). Not to mention, there’s a subplot involving Drillbit’s homeless pals and a scheme to rob one of the kids’ houses that could have (and should have) been completely excised from the movie. This superfluous storyline serves only to detract from the main plot and on the whole, drag the movie out.
Worse still, the film tries for the male-bonding sentiment found in the Apatow-produced 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad. It fails. Rather than earning true relationships not just between the boys, but between the boys and Drillbit, the movie feels like it’s merely following a formula, listlessly plugging obligatory friendship scenes in where they may or may not belong. Its efforts at emotion only make the film drip with a sentimentality that manages to touch its audience with feelings of awkwardness and discomfort (probably not the effect the filmmakers had intended). The result is a movie that feels gracelessly uneven, falling short on its delivery of humor, feeling and overall expectations.
The extras turn out to be more fun than the picture itself. The DVD supplementals are replete with commentaries, deleted scenes (thirteen in all), a gag reel and a bevy of featurettes. While none of them is standout insightful or hilarious, it’s clear the cast and filmmakers had a blast making the movie. Too bad the audience couldn’t share in the experience.