Sunday, March 30, 2008

Why does DRILLBIT TAYLOR exist?

Back in the 80s, John Hughes made a string of films that were brilliantly funny, tightly structured and perfectly articulated the anxiety of growing up in suburban America. His best movies - THE BREAKFAST CLUB; SIXTEEN CANDLES - didn't rely on the improbable plot devices. But even movies like WEIRD SCIENCE were firmly nailed to the ground with their honest depiction of adolescent sexual frustration. It was refreshing to see life from the point of view of the ordinary people - the anonymous mass rather than the pretty cheerleaders.

Since then, teen comedies have become a much impoverished genre - alternating between gross out spoofs for the guys and air-brushed love-stories for the girls. As for John Hughes, he became enmeshed in the depressingly mediocre HOME ALONE and BEETHOVEN franchises.

With THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN and KNOCKED UP, it looked like Judd Apatow might have inherited Hughes' ability to chronicle our anxieties with a healthy whollop of self-deprecating wit. These movies appealed to the generation reared on Hughes, now dealing with the transition from college grad to responsible adult.

No doubt Apatow and his frequent collaborator Seth Rogen are cresting a wave. The question is whether they are spreading themselves too thin and letting the quality of their projects suffer.

DRILLBIT TAYLOR is a case in point. Even roping in the legendary Hughes hasn't produced a tightly-plotted, consistently funny script. In fact, this film feels hastily assembled and overly-reliant on Owen Wilson's goofy smile. The plot is simple. Three geeks (Hughes-a-go-go!) hire a bodyguard (Wilson) to pose as a teacher and protect them from the school bully. But the bodyguard is really just a homeless scam-artist looking for a quick buck until his heart-of-gold (and bogus friends) get in the way.

There's no coming-of-age; no biting satire; no real jokes. Wilson is sweet; the geeks are sweet; everyone's rather lovely and it all ends well. The final point is this: DRILLBIT TAYLOR is not a bad film but it IS a deeply lazy, forgettable and mediocre film. Why does it need to exist at all?

DRILLBIT TAYLOR is currently on release in Australia, Canada, Mexico, the US, Belgium, Estonia and the UK. It opens in April in Russia, Argentina, Turkey, Iceland and Sweden. It opens in May in France, Denmark, Germany, Singapore and Spain. It opens in June in Finland, Norway and the Netherlands.

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