Monday, March 24, 2008

DRILLBIT TAYLOR

Weezer's "Photograph" pumps out over the end credits to Drillbit Taylor. While that ditty - from the king of the liberated nerds himself, Rivers Cuomo - plays as a fitting coda to a film about three hopeless high school freshmen, Drillbit Taylor doesn't match the look-at-me-know vindication in that flawless song.

Instead, the film comes off more like Superbad - The Early Years, replete with prepubescent versions of Evan, Seth, and McLovin in Wade (the lanky one), Ryan (the curly-haired fat one), and Emmit (the third wheel). This isn't a surprise, considering Seth Rogen co-wrote and Judd Apatow produced, but it's a disappointment after learning that the original brainchild of Drillbit Taylor was John Hughes.

Had Hughes - who seems to have dropped off the pop cultural map a la J.D. Salinger and Don Van Vliet - directed, or even fleshed-out the script a bit, Drillbit could've been special ... something in between Uncle Buck and Weird Science. What Rogen and Apatow seem to lack, thus far, is an understanding of the awkward, acned drama that goes hand-in-hand with surviving the seven period battleground.

Sure, Superbad nailed the horny-ness of Seniors like no other film I've seen, but it's not exactly a multi-layered character study. (In hindsight, after watching Superbad's DVD extras, one wonders how much of that film's greatness is attributed to Michael Cera's improv and Jonah Hill's riffing, rather than Rogen's script.)

But it's nice to see Owen Wilson back on screen after his personal tragedies of 2007. That trademark Wilsonian charisma is the most winning thing about Drillbit. During a flirtatious hall scene with Wilson, Leslie Mann appears to become so charmed behind-the-lens, that you half expect her to get all Purple Rose of Cairo and bust through the screen with Wilson en route to the nearest empty projectionist booth.

But Wilson's best scenes are with the kids. He has a presence with the teen actors - on display in You, Me, and Dupree as well - that hints at a new, lighter direction for him. Perhaps his real life started blurring too much with the extravagant excesses of Zoolander and Wedding Crashers. Drillbit is a homeless man with a clean slate, and on the road to building his life back up. Hopefully, Owen Wilson is doing the same.

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