As much as I hate to admit it, this wasn’t a bad comedy.
Drillbit Taylor is another Apatow project (produced by Judd Apatow) with writing credits to Seth Rogen and former Beavis and Butthead writer Kristofor Brown. What the Apatow gang is doing better than anyone else right now is writing and putting together the frameworks for solid comic films. The characters are given realism, profundity, and consequence amid the standard gross-out fare. While most Apatow films can hang with almost any others in the raunch category, this one’s a little different and features softer edges.
It is the writing dexterity of Rogen and Brown that helps heave Drillbit Taylor over the average bar slightly, but there really isn’t an awful lot here to grab on to. Owen Wilson stars as the titular character. He’s a homeless guy who begs for money and does whatever he can to get by. One day, Drillbit becomes the “bodyguard” of three kids who are sick of being bullied. Hilarity ensues as Drillbit becomes engaged in the lives of the kids and starts up a relationship with one of the teachers (Leslie Mann) at their school.
It is the kids who really steal the show here in terms of charm, although Owen Wilson is quite amusing in his own right. Troy Gentile, who played young Nacho Libre in the Jack Black film of the same name, is uproarious as the chubby Ryan and Nate Hartley is just as good as the scraggy and pasty Wade. Scenes in which the two are able to play off of one another showcase their natural talent for everyday humour and the scene in which they both wind up wearing the same shirt to the first day of school is precious.
There is a substantial amount of John Hughes influence here, as this was apparently his idea. The mores and the feel of teenage existence is certainly very Hughes-esque, even if it’s probably impossible to touch a high school-themed movie without conjuring him up in some way. There are also some comical cameos, such as the scene in which Adam Baldwin drops by to remark how stupid it is for kids to hire bodyguards to help fend off bullies. Baldwin starred in the similar 1980 film My Bodyguard.
Drillbit Taylor works because it exceeds expectations. Like another film I wasn’t supposed to like, 2006’s The Benchwarmers (Rob Schneider), this one won me over with its spirit and its unfussiness. The characters resonated with warmth and authenticity, despite all of the childish events, and the inner plot components all rang true. This is a solid revenge movie; one where the little guy stands up against the school bully and gets creative. There’s something intrinsically gratifying about that when it’s done right.
The script is also very intelligent and the performances are more than apt to pull off some of the finer moments. This is a story of incoming freshmen preparing to meet their destiny in the hallways of the Great Unknown. Other Apatow films have captured the opposite end of the continuum, as with Superbad, but this one has a distinctly different intention.
So there it is. Drillbit Taylor is another efficient comedy from the Apatow gang. It isn’t principally side-splitting, but it is a sugary and amusing film featuring characters that all ring true and seem genuine. The chemistry between the actors is faultless and the script is charming. Who could ask for anything more from an Owen Wilson vehicle?