“Drillbit Taylor” is a worthless comedy that hates its characters and insults its audience.
Let’s start with the “insults its audience” part: It’s designed to take your money and waste your time, nothing more. It’d be wrong to describe it as “misguided,” since that would suggest that it wants to entertain you in the first place.
Who’d pay to see this? Actually, lots of people went to see it when it opened in theaters last year. Maybe they were asking for it – it’s not a good sign when the ads say “You get what you pay for.”
There’s something else in the ads, though. Something crafty and exploitive. It could be the line about it being made by “the guys that brought you ‘Knocked Up’ and ‘Superbad,’” which suggests that it’s just as good. Yes, “Knocked Up” actor Seth Rogen – who doesn’t appear in this movie, by the way – participated in this mess (he co-wrote it), but so what if he did? This isn’t his style. Rogen also wrote “Superbad” with Evan Goldberg – it’s one of the best pictures of last year.
Rent that instead.
Anyway, Owen Wilson plays Drillbit Taylor, a beggar who manipulates strangers for easy money. He’s dirty, dishonest, shallow and wicked – he lies about being a war hero to seduce money out of everybody in town. (He served one day and went AWOL.) He’ll do anything for money, like hustle tourists for spare change. When he’s with his friends, he talks about his desperate get-rich-quick schemes, like winning the lottery and running off to Canada.
He strikes the mother lode when he goes online (on a stranger’s laptop) and reads about three kids named Wade (Nate Hartley), Ryan (Troy Gentile) and Emmit (David Dorfman). They’re worried about being picked on in school by a couple of bullies named Filkins (Alex Frost) and Ronnie (Josh Peck), and they need help fighting back. Drillbit agrees to work with them – he charges $387 a week. He cons them with a fictional résumé: “As a bodyguard, I protected three vice presidents, Bobby Brown and Sylvester Stallone. Not quite as tough as he looks.” They hire him in a second. Foolishly.
What we’ve got here is a good actor victimized by a bad story. Wilson smiles gamely throughout the movie, all while drowning in a river of stupidity and unpleasantness. You suspect that he hates this movie more than we do, especially with this kind of dialogue:
“What’s the Army always say? ‘Have It Your Way,’” Drillbit says.
“I think that’s Burger King,” responds Wade.
Worst of all, he’s not the only one. Celebrities like Lisa Lampanelli, Chuck Liddell and Cedric Yarbrough chime in with unrewarding cameos. (Lampanelli plays Ronnie’s mom, Liddell plays a bodyguard, Yarbrough plays a beggar.) Having a cast like that, it makes you wonder if “Drillbit Taylor” passes what’s known as the Gene Siskel Test.
Siskel once asked: “Is the movie that I am watching as interesting as a documentary of the same actors having lunch together?”