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Drillbit Taylor (2008)

Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 7/1/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie:
Video:
Audio: 1/2
Extras:

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/1/2008

Over the years, there have been plenty of comedic filmmakers who have worked out their personal issues -- some would go as far as to say personal demons -- on-screen. Artists such as Woody Allen and Kevin Smith have used their funny movies to put some of their own life out in the open. It would appear that Seth Rogen is the latest writer to follow this trend. With Superbad, we got his take on high school. And now, once again with help from producer friend Judd Apatow, we get Rogen's look at middle school in Drillbit Taylor. Unfortunately, I think that Rogen's comedic gas-tank is running on empty.

Drillbit Taylor opens with two seemingly unrelated stories. Friends Wade (Nate Hartley) and Ryan (Troy Gentile) are excited about beginning middle school. Unfortunately, their joy is immediately diffused as they run afoul of school bullies, Filkins (Alex Frost) and Ronnie (Josh Peck), who humiliate them in front of a crowd. Meanwhile, we meet Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson), a drifter who panhandles on the freeway and hangs out with other ďdomicile challengedĒ individuals. Drillbit states that heís tired of seeking handouts and that he wants to raise just enough money to move to Canada.

After days of torment, Wade, Ryan, and their new colleague, Emmit (David Dorfman), decide to hire a bodyguard. Drillbit, an ex-military man, learns of this and convinces the boys that heís the man for the job. Actually, Drillbit only plans on taking their money and heading North. Drillbit teaches the boys some self-defense techniques, and when that doesnít work, he decides to accompany them to school, where he finds a whole new world of scam opportunities.

Drillbit Taylor may be the first film that Iíve ever seen where the casting of one actor both hurts and helps the movie. Owen Wilson is woefully miscast as Drillbit Taylor, a lowly scam artist who only cares about himself. This may seem like a monumental spoiler, but at no point in the film do we believe that the gregarious Wilson is going to double-cross the boys. A con is supposed to be sincere, but it seems that even Wilson believes his lies to the guys and this decreases any level of suspense. In contrast, Drillbitís friends, played by Danny R. McBride, Cedric Yarbrough, and Robert Musgrave, do seem genuinely evil, and one wonders why Drillbit would pal around with them. So, Owen Wilson is suited for this part. Actually, if it wouldnít have seemed like a carbon copy of Bad Santa, Billy Bob Thornton would have been perfect here.

However, itís Wilson who keeps Drillbit Taylor afloat. Even though we arenít supposed to like his character at times, the movie certainly picks up when he is on-screen. Wilsonís natural energy brings a lot to the role, and he makes even the most bizarre dialogue sound genuine. Again, Wilson isnít able to bring out Drillbitís scoundrel side, but he has no problem portraying the laidback nature of a man who has no job and no worries. Aside from Wilson, the only highlight in the movie is the scene where the boys audition potential bodyguards. If the rest of the film had been even half as funny as that scene, then we would have had a minor classic on our hands.

But, other than Wilson, there isnít much to like in Drillbit Taylor. Again, the film could easily be seen as a prequel of sorts to Superbad, but at least that movie had raunchy humor going for it. This film is nothing but scene after scene of the boys being tormented, and Drillbit doing something wacky. The whole thing with the bullies goes way too far, and the final act contains some odd morals about adults fighting with teenagers. Many of the jokes fall flat and even Danny R. McBride, who was hilarious in The Heartbreak Kid and Hot Rod, does nothing funny here. If youíve read my review for Superbad, then you know that Iím not a huge fan of Judd Apatowís films. The fact that he signed off on this one pushes me away even further. Those other films from Apatow at least had some sort of defining characteristic, but Drillbit Taylor is far too bland to stand out from the crowd. I wished that I could have hired someone to protect me from the lack of comedy in this movie.

Drillbit Taylor comes to protect DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear here, showing no distracting grain and defects from the source material. The picture has a nice amount of detail, and the colors look very good. The transfer is well-balanced, as the image is never overly dark or bright. I noted some artifacting at times, but otherwise the picture was solid. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The in-film music provides some nice bass effects and the crowd scenes (of which there are several) bring us notable stereo and surround effects. But, in the end, this is a comedy where active audio isnít the focal point.

The Drillbit Taylor DVD contains an arsenal of extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Steven Brill, Writer Kristofor Brown, and actors Troy Gentile, Nate Hartley, David Dorfman. This is a fun talk, as Brill and Brown go solo at first, discussing the fundamentals of the film. They are then joined by the boys who share their stories from the movieís production. "The Writers Get a Chance to Talk: Kristofor Brown and Seth Rogen" (14 minutes) is a pseudo audio commentary where Brown and Rogen (via telephone) discuss the film. Despite this odd format, the chat is funny and they reveal a take on the movie which sounds better than the finished film. The DVD contains thirteen DELETED/EXTENDED SCENES which run 17 minutes. There are a few good moments here, but most of it resembles material already in the film. "Line-o-rama" (4 minutes) is similar to the deleted scenes, as it contains alternate takes of scenes from the film. There are some lines here that are better than those in the final cut. The DVD has a 4-minute GAG REEL. "Rap Off" (4 minutes) shows Jagues "Ku" Slade instructing Troy Gentile and Alex Frost for their rap contest. "Sprinkler Day" (3 minutes) shows on-set footage of the scene where the sprinkler are activated. "Bully" (3 minutes) is an odd segment which simply shows behind-the-scenes footage of Alex Frost and Josh Peck in action. Steven Brill comments on the lack of attention span of his actors in "Directing Kids" (3 minutes).  In "The Real Don: Danny McBride" (6 minutes) the actor describes his character.

Paramount Home Entertainment has also brought Drillbit Taylor to Blu-ray Disc.  The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps.  The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material.  The colors look good, most notably reds, and the black tones look true.  The image is neither too bright or too dark.  However, the picture is somewhat soft and certainly lacks in detail at times when compared to other Blu-ray transfers.  The picture is certainly sharper than the DVD, but I was disappointed by the overall look.  The Disc has a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps.  The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects.  Being a comedy, the audio here isn't overwhelming, but it's decent.  The stereo effects are fine and really come through during crowd scenes in the school.  The big confrontation scene provides a nice amount of stereo and surround effects with nice stereo separation.  There isn't much bass here, save for the in-movie music.

Although this isn't address on the box, The Drillbit Taylor Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras which aren't on the DVD.  "Panhandle" (3 minutes) features extended versions of Drillbit begging for money on the freeway.  "Kids on the Loose" (3 minutes) is simply on-set footage of the three main boys acting silly.  "Super Billy" (3 minutes) profiles Billy O'Neill and shows some scenes not in the film.  "Bodyguard" (3 minutes) gives a behind-the-scenes look at the interview scene, which some deleted shots.  "Trading Punches" (90 seconds) shows the boys rehearsing the scene where they hit one another.  "Filkins Fight" (7 minutes) examines the preparation for the confrontation scene.  "The Life of Don" (2 minutes) is a faux interview with Danny R. McBride's Don character.  Finally, the Disc has two THEATRICAL TRAILERS.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long