Director: Steven Brill
Screenwriters: Kristofor Brown, Seth Rogen
Starring: Owen Wilson, Leslie Mann, Nate Hartley, Troy Gentile, David Dorfman, Alex Frost
Frat Pack everywhere! It appears that U.S Mainstream Comedy Cinema won't allow anyone else into their movies. No Seth Rogan? Then no way. No Vince Vaughan? Try again sucker. No Judd Apatow? Denied! It seems that if you do not have least one of these people in your movies then it's not allowed to make money. Ok so that's not true. However as long as these Frat Pack films break even at least, you ain't seen the last of these guys.
Drillbit Taylor is yet another film produced by Apatow productions. Taking liberally from the film My Bodyguard (1980) and with certain elements being thought up by the master of a thousand childhoods (John Hughes under his Edmond Dantes pseudonym); DT is a sweet (but not too slushy) film about a group of nerds who have just entered high school. They decide to hire a hobo as a personal bodyguard to defend them from a couple of bullies, with amusing results. There's not much else to the films plot, but that's not the point. It seems like a touching (and amusing) way to aim the Apatow humor at a younger audience.
For the most part, it works I guess. As a fan of Owen Wilson I found most of the movie enjoyable. Wilson's lazy Texan drawl and offbeat charm keep the film moving, elevating a below mediocre family film to a watchable one. Don't be expecting to laugh as loud as in Superbad or The Wedding Crashers (if you enjoyed those movies) as the dialogue is not nearly as quotable and the set pieces aren't as nearly as outrageous. In fact the more OTT a frat pack production is the stronger the film is as a whole. Drillbit misses the manic performances from some of the other frat members. It is in Drillbit you discover how strong the comic talents of the frat pack as it is sorely missing here. Many of the jokes, one could say are a little off. Mostly because of the performances (and dodgy editing). In the hands of others I would have laughed a lot louder than I did. Not to say that I didn't laugh, however I doubt this will have the same effect as when I watched Superbad again the other day.
Wilson is of course the strongest performance, his timing is still extremely strong and he can still make me laugh at dialogue that other actors couldn't. Leslie Mann (an underrated comic actress) also shines in the small amount of screen time she's in. The chemistry between herself and Wilson is likable, easy going and most important amusing. A stronger story could have been made with the two adult characters than the "yoof" of the film. Not to say that the younger guys in the film are terrible...just awkward and not in a Micheal Cera way. The lead trio just stand out unnaturally at times, looking more geeky and standing out more than they should.
This doesn't help the slim plot which drags a hell of a lot considering that these kids are supposed to carry the film until the end. Wilson may be the star of the film but the kids are the protagonists and while every so often they come off with gems in various moments of the film, they fade into the background far more than they should. If this is considered a spiritual predecessor to Superbad it needed kids who could compared to the talents and timing of Cera and Hill.
Director Steven Brill may have agreed on the casting due to the physical attributes of the kids but he could have at least spent more time working on the timing of the three. I have labelled them quite harshly, however I have only gone by how well the film has labelled them; Troy Gentile is the fat one, Nate Hartley is the skinny one and David Dorfman is the weedy one. They act towards their one characteristic and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't and while Superbad take three archetypes and gives them a fresh feel and makes them lovable (and quotable). Drillbit has three similar stereotypes and does nothing with them.
Brill, director of the awful Without a paddle creates a film which is a damn sight better than that piece of junk in that it is actually funny in places. It has set pieces that not only crack smiles but with bring out the odd guffaw. The film is a watchable one but one without freshness. It's light but forgettable . With this said however, it's worth a renting for not only Wilson and Mann but a slightly twisted performance from head bully played by Alex Frost who some may remember at Alex from Gus Van Sant's marvellous/boring (either/or) Elephant.