When we were children growing up we inevitably were in one of two groups; bullies or victims. It really didn’t make what neighbor, school, financial or social level you were that was it; two categories. Statistically there is a better chance that you were a victim since one bully can usually torment many other children. This bully-victim relationship frequently persists into adulthood. Just think about people in your office. There is bound to be one quite worker who is the butt of every joke the company braggart comes up with. Since this is such a universal theme it is only natural that it has been revisited so often in movies and literature. The latest flick to look at this childhood problem is ‘Drillbit Taylor’. This is an uneven comedy that will provide some laughs but you have to go into it not expecting much more than some juvenile humor. Sometimes this is just what you need in a flick; a chance to shut off all the higher functions of your brain and go back to the picked on little kid in the schoolyard. This flick has all the required elements for a reasonably good afternoon. There are the requisite rag tag group of social outcasts, the homeless man with a huge ego and the necessary bully. You never for a minute have to be concerned with whom the good guys are villains are; it is painfully obvious. There is a little moral lesson to be had but who cares? This is just a means to provide some cheap laughs and there are times when that is enough.
The writing chores here were mostly divided between Kristofor Brown and Seth Rogen. A quick look at their resumes shows some discrepancies in what they have previously delivered to their audiences. Brown has worked on such puerile television series as ‘Beavis and Butthead’ and ‘The Tom Green Show’. This should give you a rough idea of just want type of humor appeals to him; low brow. To be fair he also worked on one of the best, underappreciated series in the last decade ‘Undeclared’. In contrast Rogen is one of the upcoming stars of modern comedy. As an actor he has been in hits like ‘Knocked Up’ and ‘The Forty Year Old Virgin’. As a writer he has handed in scripts for ‘Superbad’ as well as episodes of ‘Ali G’ and the aforementioned ‘Undeclared’. This association is a bit uneven. You can almost identify which parts came from Rogen. He seems to have a set world view where the underdogs find a way to rise above the overwhelming peer pressure. Albeit this story concentrates more on a younger, prepubescent set of protagonists. There is a third credited writer, Edmond Dantes. This is actually the nom de plume of John Hughes. In the eighties he practically reinvented the teen comedy with hits including ‘Sixteen Candles’, ‘Pretty in Pink’ and ‘The Breakfast Club’ to name just a small portion of his works. Most times it is difficult to note his contributions here but they are present. There is just a little bit of ‘Ducky’ in the characters; the geek with aspirations of being cool. They have the usually problem; they are such geeks that their first week in school they are natural bully magnets. Their solution is not to fight back; the bully is much too strong. The only ‘logical’ course of action they can come up with is to hire an adult to act as their body guard and protect them. Now the idea of an adult man fighting an underage bully is not realistic but you have been warned not to try to think at all while watching this flick. If you have been watching movies for more than a few years you can predict just about everything that is going to happen here. The saving grace of the plot is you can quickly identify with the boys and find yourself rooting for them to succeed.
Directing the flick is Steven Brill. He has a number of films on his directorial resume but the most notable are ‘Little Nicky’ and ‘Mr. Deeds’; two Adam Sandler movies. Once again this pedigree gives a reasonable indication of what to expect. At least it can be said that the man knows how to direct a silly, juvenile flick. He doesn’t opt for any tricky camera tricks. Instead his style here is straightforward. The many sight gags are generally well staged but they lack a certain spark required to make them work. It is just a case of the proper elements being there but they just don’t gel properly. Acting as one of the producers is Judd Apatow. He was the creative genius behind many of the films that Rogen has stared in. Here his magic touch just seems to be a little off and the film; even with humble aspirations, cannot rise above a popcorn flick. Again, this is okay if you go into your viewing with this in mind. Just sit back and enjoy; don’t over analyze it.
The first day of high school is special day for all kids. It is the beginning of the end of mandatory education and the last steps in childhood. For two boys, Ryan (Troy Gentile) and Wade (Nate Hartley) it is a day filled with hopes that are soon dashed to pieces. Classes have barely begun when they see two bullies, Filkins (Alex Frost) and Ronnie (Josh Peck) shoving a much smaller boy into a locker. The boy, Emmett, (David Dorfman) is helpless unable to defend himself. The pudgy Ryan and stick thin Wade try to help but only become bully bate themselves. From that point on the bullies have one mission in life; to make life for the trio of boys as miserable as possible. The boys manage to gather about a hundred bucks and decide to hire a professional bodyguard to stave off the bullies. They place an ad on the internet and the wackos start showing up for interviews. Mostly because of the lack of money they wind up with Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson). He is basically a homeless man living in the park under a picnic table but he has some very dubious ‘military’ experience. Initially his plan is to gain the confidence of the boys and rob their homes so he can get enough money together to move to Canada and start a new life. When he shows up at the school he meets a beautiful teacher, Lisa (Leslie Mann) who takes Drillbit as a substitute teacher. He is immediately smitten with her and changes his plans and goes along with the student teacher guise to stay close to her. He also begins to befriend the boys and actually tries to defend them. Of course there are some other miscellaneous plot points added such as the truth behind Taylor’s short and disgraceful military service but ultimately love and friendship wins out.
This is not the best work of Owen Wilson which may have been due to the tragic personal problems he faced shortly after the film wrapped. Paramount has two ways to get this film on DVD. The first is a straight theatrical cut. There is also an extended edition that is loaded with extras. Both have an anamorphic 2.35:1 video and Dolby 5.1 audio. The extras on the ‘Extended Survival Edition are listed below.
This is a decent popcorn flick but it is not recommended for younger members of the family.