By Kris Ashton
Itâ€™s clear depression really can afflict anyone, because Owen Wilson was born under a lucky star. Heâ€™s as ugly as an Alsatianâ€™s arse and yet heâ€™s considered a sex symbol. His comedic chops are limited at best and yet he is one of the genreâ€™s biggest stars. And heâ€™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 itâ€™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 clichÃ© after clichÃ©, 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 yearâ€™s overrated comedy hit ”Superbad” â€“ 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 itâ€™s â€˜head nerdâ€™ 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 heâ€™s half asleep or delivering his lines through a haze of downers. Not only does he struggle for laughs, his characterâ€™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 â€“ 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.
Whatâ€™s most disappointing, though, is that ”Drillbit Taylor” feels like a missed opportunity. The writers took a terrific concept for an older kidsâ€™ 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 â€¦ but they won’t have had as much potential in the first place.
”Drillbit Taylor” sprays a lot of bullets but doesnâ€™t hit many targets.