Drillbit Taylor

From the makers of Superbad comes a supergeneric high school comedy -- 1 star

Directed by Steven Brill. March 2008, USA. Rated PG-13: 110 min.

(Originally published in buzz magazine on 3/23/2008)

The following is a verbatim transcript of the actual sales pitch given to Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow to write and produce Drillbit Taylor:

“Sup dawgs! I’m Xzibit, from Pimp my Film! We heard that you liked making movies about geeky high school guys who seem likeable but struggle with bullies and talking to girls they have crushes on. We’re gonna hook you up with another movie that’s basically a watered-down PG-13 version of Superbad so we can hit the middle school crowd. [Silence.] OK, OK, we’ll throw in Steven Brill, the director of Heavy Weights and Little Nicky. [Longer silence.] And Owen Wilson.” The rest is history.

All jokes aside, Drillbit Taylor reuses the Superbad formula with uninteresting results. Wade (Nate Hartley), an awkward, lanky kid with a meathead stepfather, and his big-boned friend Ryan (Troy Gentile) enter highschool with a bang. That is, the bang of a locker door slamming on a nerd named Emmit (David Dorfman). The three begin a search for a bodyguard who will protect them from two bullies, which turns up Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson), a homeless man seeking a quick score in order to expatriate himself to the Northwest Territories.

Wade, Ryan, and Emmit clearly resemble Superbad’s Evan, Seth, and Fogel, a.k.a. McLovin. Ryan and Seth both wear t-shirts with pop comedy references: one of Ryan’s shirts pays homage to South Park, while one of Seth’s elegizes Richard Pryor. Ryan’s exasperation with Wade’s sympathy for Emmit’s extreme uncoolness reminds filmgoers of Seth’s anger toward Evan for planning to room with Fogel in college.

The problem lies not just in the films’ likenesses, but also in the lameness of Drillbit’s jokes. The characters and problems in Superbad reminded a lot of young men of their own lives, but Drillbit just reminds them that sometimes screenwriters peak too early in their careers. Hopefully Pineapple Express, Seth Rogen’s next screenplay which will hit theaters in August, will prove me wrong.