Although I’m sure I’ve said it somewhere before, I’ve always found myself rooting for Owen Wilson, even more so since his ill-conceived suicide attempt last year. And even though I wasn’t a huge fan of his first film on his comeback trail (The Darjeeling Limited), I kept my hopes up for his second in line: Drillbit Taylor. Funny thing about hopes though, many a time – as in this particular case – they can be crudely dashed.
One of the reasons for my high hopes was because wonder twins, Judd Apatow (production) and Seth Rogen (screenplay), activated once more to put together this movie that combines the premise of My Bodyguard with the updated attitude of Superbad. It’s about three highschool kids: Wade (Nate Hartley), Ryan (Troy Gentile) and Emmit (David Dorfman), who find themselves targets of the school’s resident bullies: Filkins (Alex Frost) and Ronnie (Josh Peck). Since none of them know a thing about defending themselves (one fat kid, two dorks), they hire Drillbit Taylor (Wilson), a homeless guy looking to make a quick buck. Of course Drillbit doesn’t know a damn thing either, so the running gag is putting him and his clients through ever increasingly out of control situations and watching them flail about like fish out of water.
And while the premise may look out of this world on paper, my hopes were crushed because Owen Wilson just didn’t seem up to the task to carry Drillbit Taylor on his shoulders. For most of the movie he appears to be on cruise control – simply relying on his bread and butter “soft-spokenness” – instead of trying to find something more within the character. When the opportunity does arise for some introspection (inner battle to skip out with the cash or step up and actually help), he lazily trudges through it, putting out just enough effort to not raise the ire of the cast and crew around him. For me, that’s a shame because he could have really done something with this role as it was a pristine canvas for him to make his mark on.
What saves the movie from wallowing in its own filth, is the good job done by Hartley, Gentile and Dorfman as the poor bastards who can’t catch a break. I should think I’d like their characterizations better if, perhaps unfairly, I didn’t compare them to Jonah Hill, Michael Cera and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Their resemblance to the roles these guys played in Superbad is nearly a mirror image (no surprise, they were all penned by Rogan). While their performances aren’t quite on par with the others, these guys still manage to come out as very likable guys. I especially liked Gentile’s role – something about fat, loud, maladjusted kids makes me laugh. I was also impressed with how homage was paid to My Bodyguard. Adam Baldwin (the original bodyguard) pops in for a quick cameo and delivers the perfect line, stealing the part of the film in which the boys are interviewing potential bodyguard candidates.
So while Drillbit Taylor isn’t nearly everything it could have been, it did manage to turn in a few good laughs. They may not have come from the expected source, but they are there nonetheless. I’m not sure if they’re good enough to rush out to the theaters to see, but definitely worth a rental on a boring Sunday night.