Review by Jack Foley
THE creative team behind Knocked Up and Superbad return to high school for a second time with Drillbit Taylor, a knockabout comedy that certainly gets top marks for effort but only just makes the grade in terms of execution.
Wade (Hartley), Ryan (Troy Gentile) and Emmit (Dorfman) are three freshman geeks who resolve to put an end to their bullying at the hands of high school thug Filkins (Frost) by hiring the best bodyguard that pocket money can buy.
Enter Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson), a homeless vet, who quickly seizes upon the opportunity to score some easy cash.
Rather than tackling Filkins in person, Drillbit offers to train the kids to defend themselves using increasingly unorthodox methods while he watches over them by posing as a teacher. But in doing so, he comes into contact with a sex-crazed teacher (Leslie Mann) and falls head over heels, prompting the inevitable spot of soul-searching and a do-right change of heart.
Produced by Judd Apatow, co-written by Seth Rogen and starring Owen Wilson, Drillbit Taylor gets by on its inspired premise and some nice performances but is also let down by some overly familiar comedic devices and a curiously uneven tone.
The central trio, in particular, feel as though they were originally intended for a Superbad prequel, with Hartley, Gentile and Dorfman sharing one too many similar traits. Wilson, too, appears content to trade on his laidback persona despite appearing a little more roguish than usual.
All manage to overcome these elements, though, to generally endear themselves to viewers, with Wilson in particular sharing some witty repartee that provides a welcome reminder of his gift for comic timing (especially in his quick-witted flirting with the under-used Mann).
Some of the humour also feels too mean-spirited, particularly during the bullying sequences that are more painful than hilarious.
But while there are plenty of indiscretions, the film is genuinely funny in places, with standout sequences including a rap off between the geeks and the bully, a horrid moment of realisation that two characters are wearing the same shirt on the first day of school, and a hard-earned feel-good ending in which Drillbit finally gets to kick some butt.
It’s this ability to make you laugh (albeit guiltily in places) that still makes Drillbit Taylor worth seeing.
Running time: 102mins
UK DVD Release: July 21, 2008