Drillbit Taylor (2008) Guest Review

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This review for the John Hughes Blogathon comes from Rhetologue’s Movie Logs. Thank you for the reviews for this blogathon! Let’s see what he thought of Drillbit Taylor. 🙂

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Drillbit Taylor is the tale of an ass kicking hobo that has the hallmarks of a John Hughes’ movie but in Seth Rogen’s hands. Movie Logs reviews this odd team up for Cinema Parrot Disco.

Drillbit Taylor follows three high school friends who, in finding themselves mercilessly bullied, hire a homeless man pretending to be a martial arts expert to defend them while at school.

Now, I was previously under the impression that Drillbit Taylor was the work of Seth Rogen but that’s only part of the story. It seems John Hughes pitched this story under the pseudonym Edmond Dantes, obviously a practice he was in the habit of doing when the idea was a little bit…poop. Drillbit Taylor is within a list that also includes Maid in Manhattan and the Beethoven franchise. In fact, Drillbit was Hughes’ last film before his death in 2009.

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For Seth Rogen, being a part of this project was probably an amazing opportunity. His own career has been tremendously influenced by an irreverent and teen-centric world. From Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000) to this year’s Bad Neighbours, his work must have been influenced in some way by the coming of age tales of John Hughes.

Drillbit does have a whiff of the John Hughes about it with its irreverent themes, smartass kids and bizarre story. Yet it’s not particularly strong and that’s kind of the point. This is what John Hughes thinks is sellable but not worthy of his name. How strange is it that what Hughes considered poor seems awfully similar to what Seth Rogen made his name pumping out? This is the biggest problem with Drillbit Taylor – it seems at odds with itself.

The premise is pretty sweet and finds Owen Wilson as an affable wanderer that finds his opportunism and inspiring words fusing into a conscience.

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Though this dynamic is at times compelling it’s never really funny…it just happens and you watch it because it’s there and that’s fine…I guess. Owen Wilson truly holds this movie together with his personal charisma. As Drillbit moves into the school to protect his wards, posing as a substitute teacher, the novelty of the story peeks out from under the banality.

However, when Drillbit starts a relationship with deluded teacher Lisa (Leslie Mann), he finds it harder to keep his old life a secret. He finds himself going head-to-head with two mindless school bullies, played by Drake and Josh’s reformed fat kid – Josh Peck – and the unflinching Alex Frost.

The lies, the economical attempts at romance, the suspense of finding ways to come to his wards’ rescue all help to make Drillbit Taylor watchable yet the balance of humour is not weighted in its favour.

With the help of the near faultless anxiousness of Leslie Mann, it gets so close. Then there’s Danny McBride and Reno 911’s Cedric Yarbrough playing a couple of homeless opportunists that are practically the 3rd baseman waving Owen in for a homer…yet somehow it doesn’t quite get there.

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That might be because the movie struggles to generate empathy for the kids, who are the now generic characters referencing WASP and Jewish culture.

You know, they’re your quintessential chubby and short kid (Troy Gentile as Ryan), skinny and tall kid (Nate Hartley as Wade) and nerdy kid who probably smells of cough syrup and sea salt (David Dorfman as Emmitt). Those character profiles have served Seth Rogen well, as he’s built his whole career on them and hasn’t stopped using them yet. However, in this incarnation, it’s all too predictably placed and paced.

With Rogen writing and producing SuperBad a year earlier it also feels like a bit of a cheeky replication of characters. The kids are a little younger and we gain a little bit more back story, yet it’s ultimately covered ground. The battle rap scene is particularly cringe-worthy and is indicative of how 2000-and-late these characters seem in their contrivances.

This all helmed by director Steven Brill, who is not particularly in the business of making good films. This is the man that has brought us the likes of Little Nicky (2000) and Without a Paddle (2004), being just two of his affronts to cinema. Drillbit Taylor may be his bets movie to date yet it feels more like a weak version of an Adam McKay (Step Brothers, The Other Guys) movie, without the humour to back it up. Visually, Drillbit Taylor is nothing to write home about, and delivers some engaging sequences in all the predictable places if only to keep our attention.

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Last words

“What more could you really want?”

I actually like Drillbit Taylor. It’s a fun movie even if it is pedestrian. It’s enjoyable even if it’s not particularly funny. It delivers some twisted moral but is still somehow inspirational. It achieves some poignancy without being particularly layered. Drillbit Taylor is simultaneously a terrible John Hughes movie, as it has none of the heart of his fare, and a passable Seth Rogen slam piece, as it exists to amuse and to fund Rogen’s money making habit. That’s quite the achievement.

Drillbit Taylor could never be considered a John Hughes movie in its finished form but in some respect it is the same concept as Weird Science – some nerds want to stop being bullied so employ the powers of a magical being to protect and empower them. In the case of Lisa, she was a sexy computer generated genie. In Drillbit’s case he’s a hobo who will say and do anything to make an easy buck until somehow his lies manifest in magical truth. Either way, they end result is still the same and it is that subtext that maintains the spirit of the movie despite its weaknesses.

Truly, Drillbit Taylor is the type of movie that forces you to ask yourself, on a lazy weekend when the remote is just out of reach, “what more could I possibly want?”

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4 thoughts on “Drillbit Taylor (2008) Guest Review

  1. Pingback: Thanks To Everyone Involved With The John Hughes Blogathon | Cinema Parrot Disco

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