Drillbit Taylor makes quite an accomplishment in that it is a PG-13-rated film that has the feel of last year's R-rated Superbad. Most of the vulgarity that made Apatow's previous venture inappropriately hilarious has absconded to unknown horizons, and Drillbit is left with utilizing more crafty means at achieving laughs. Not necessarily more intelligent, but certainly less crude, the similarly hilarious lead characters all find their perfect places in this consistently amusing comedy.
Three kids experience bullying at school by antagonizer Filkins, an emancipated student who revels in terrorizing smaller kids. On their first day at high school, Wade (Nate Hartley as the Harry-Potter-like scrawny kid), Ryan (Troy Gentile as the overweight kid with the never-ending ranting) and Emmit (David Dorfman as the kid-who-gets-shoved-in-a-locker) can't seem to evade constant humiliation at the hands of nemesis Filkins. Only able to take so much, the three decide to hire a bodyguard to defend them. In a riotous job-interview montage, the trio chooses Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson), an ex-black-ops and improvised weapons expert, who teaches them to stick up for themselves. During the process, Drillbit gets sidetracked with aggressive teacher Lisa (Leslie Mann) and the truth that he is nothing more than a homeless bum who yearns for the good life in Canada.
Drillbit Taylor, like Superbad, derives much of its humorous moments by forcing many continual little laughs. Quick jokes follow rapid slapstick to allow the audience to pick and choose what tickles their funny-bones. When some gags don't work, instant new ribs replace them so that no one can sit still for long. But most unique is the idea that the majority of the humor does not rely on crudeness, but the friendlier grounds of physical comedy (undergoing torment by bullies) and unexpectedly nonsensical dialogue (the love chatter between Drillbit and Lisa).
Again this comedy falls into the same storyline quicksand that plagues most recent comedies, which is allowing the conflict to become too serious. No one doubts the fact that the plot is absolutely ridiculous and that most of the concepts are exaggerated to the point of absurdity, but within this fantasy world of nerds and bullies, some things we hope to remain realistic. Things like vengeance against the bullies, getting the girls, and staying out of serious harm's way. These concepts are approached with little justice to realism, and so results in a conclusion that can only be as unlikely as the samurai-sword-wielding antagonist. That's not to say that any of it was intended to be faithful to the stereotypical perception of high school life, but most of it appears that way from the get-go.
"As long as you have a coffee cup in your hand, nobody says nothing," explains Drillbit, on his ease at infiltrating the school as a substitute teacher. And so as long as the humor remains appealingly gut-busting, no one questions the reasoning behind much of the juvenile antics. Where Superbad focused on nonstop sexual and gross-out humor, Drillbit stays refreshingly clean with its parody of the cool kids and the un-cool kids frequenting a typical high school. And (comedic) revenge against persecution is one of the most universally inviting themes to watch.
- Mike Massie