Drillbit Taylor


By Kris Ashton

It’s clear depression really can afflict anyone, because Owen Wilson was born under a lucky star. He’s as ugly as an Alsatian’s arse and yet he’s considered a sex symbol. His comedic chops are limited at best and yet he is one of the genre’s biggest stars. And he’s no more than a competent dramatic actor, but critics seem to love him in his more serious roles.

Now Wilson brings his celebrated mediocrity to bear on a comedy for older pre-teens, ”Drillbit Taylor”. To judge by the synopsis, you might think it’s a somewhat fresh idea: a group of nerds start high school and find themselves targets for two bullies. Tired of taking their lumps, they decide to hire a bodyguard to protect them. But with less than $100 to spend, the only person willing to accept the gig is Drillbit Taylor (Wilson) a bum who plans to fleece the kids of just enough money to start a new life in Canada.

From there, however, the storyline meters out cliché after cliché, recalling everything from ”Revenge of the Nerds” to ”The Karate Kid”. But what ”Drillbit Taylor” resembles most of all is a toned-down version of last year’s overrated comedy hit ”Superbad” – perhaps no surprise, since Judd Apatow is a producer and Seth Rogen is co-writer.

”Drillbit Taylor” is not without an occasional amusing moment and there is a satisfying catharsis at the end, but it’s ‘head nerd’ Nate Hartley who turns in a strong performance and keeps the movie more or less afloat throughout its running time.

Wilson, on the other hand, looks like he’s half asleep or delivering his lines through a haze of downers. Not only does he struggle for laughs, his character’s relationship with teacher Lisa (Leslie Mann) is so unbelievable that even the target audience will have trouble swallowing it. Director Steven Brill (”Without a Paddle”) must also shoulder some blame for the weaker performances – near enough appears to have been good enough in too many instances. In particular, he has committed to celluloid one of the most unintentionally awkward kiss-and-hug scenes ever.

What’s most disappointing, though, is that ”Drillbit Taylor” feels like a missed opportunity. The writers took a terrific concept for an older kids’ movie and tried to smear its appeal across other demographics, resulting in poor thematic focus and wishy-washiness. No doubt there will be much worse films aimed at a younger audience this year … but they won’t have had as much potential in the first place.

”Drillbit Taylor” sprays a lot of bullets but doesn’t hit many targets.