Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Retro Review: Drillbit Taylor

 (editor's note: The Cap'n realized there was a series of Blogorium posts from 2008 that never made the transition from our old stomping grounds to the new one. As a result, it seemed like a good idea to share some other reviews that had been otherwise "lost" over the past four years).

Let's talk about Juniorbad, which is what the clever title of a review for Drillbit Taylor should have. Fair or not, that's exactly what the movie is: a younger, less amusing version of Superbad written by Seth Rogen and produced by Judd Apatow.

    The only significant difference is that Owen Wilson is the title character, a homeless military deserter approached by three freshment to act as their bodyguard. See, in their first week at high school, a surprisingly crafty bully manages to fool both the principal and the children's parents into thinking he's the victim, while in the meanwhile he's trying to run them down in a car after school (I'm not making this up). Hence, the need for Drillbit Taylor to protect them.

    Everything else maps out pretty much the same way. There's the skinny nerd hero who kind of reminds you of Michael Cera, the fat kid surrogate for Jonah Hill, and the quirky shrimper wanna-be McLovin. This might be cute in its own right, except that Drillbit Taylor lacks just about everything Superbad had going for it. When you knock the age of the characters from seniors to freshmen, and accordingly cast pubescent kids working with a PG-13 script, it gets hard to go anywhere new.

    It's not that the kids aren't likeable, because half of the time they are. The other half of the time, the script shoehorns them into doing things that just don't make sense. Of course, when you're talking about a movie that stacks the odds against them so much that it get ridiculous, I'm not sure where my loyalties should lie. I am pretty sure I shouldn't have been rooting for the bully to just kill the kids, which I did on a few occasions.

    The problem is that Drillbit Taylor seems like the kind of movie that should precede Superbad, and not follow it. Remove
Wilson from the equation and it makes sense that the three youngsters (Nate Hartley, Troy Gentle, and David Dorfman) would get over being bullied and become the ignored nerds we meet at the beginning of Superbad. That being said, the story just isn't very interesting in and of itself, which tends to render most of the film moot.

    You can find little moments of amusement in Drillbit Taylor, mostly coming from the adults who seem to be in a different film than the children. Director Steven Brill (Little Nicky) packs the movie with cameos from David Koechner, Cedric Yarborough, Lisa Lampanelli (playing herself), Adam Baldwin, Frank Whaley, Matt Besser, Beth Littleford, and Stephen Root. Danny McBride (
Foot Fist Way, All the Real Girls) has the closest thing to a supporting role as one of Drillbit's homeless friends, but even he feels restrained by the "kid friendly" rating.

    Perhaps it's the PG-13. Maybe it's just the feeling of "been done, and better at that". All I know is that Drillbit Taylor is at best a middle of the road, watered down version of a much funnier movie. And I watched the "Unrated" version.

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