Movie Review: “Drillbit Taylor” (***)
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Welcome back, John Hughes.
The master of mid-’80s teen comedies such as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Sixteen Candles” and “Weird Science” has not directed a film in 17 years, and he hasn’t even collected a story credit since the dawn of the decade. But “Drillbit Taylor,” the shockingly funny teen comedy featuring a story by Hughes (credited to Edmund Dantes) and co-written by Seth Rogen, captures the spirit of classic Hughes.
In “Drillbit Taylor,” high school dorks Wade (Nate Hartley) and Ryan (Troy Gentile) find themselves the constant targets of psychotic bully Filkins (Alex Frost) and his toady Ronnie (Josh Peck). Painfully skinny Wade and big-boned Ryan cannot make headway with the school principal or get much help from their unsympathetic families, so they come up with a solution: hire a bodyguard.
Along with Emmit (David Dorfman), a tiny hanger-on with even fewer social skills, the lads advertise for some hired muscle, but all the applicants are too expensive — except for Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson). Drillbit is not so much homeless as he is a bum, a beach-dwelling ne’er-do-well familiar to pawn shop brokers for his constant stream of stolen booty.
For Drillbit, the boys are patsies — he’ll take them for all Wade, Ryan, Emmit and their parents are worth, while offering only mild protection. For the boys, Drillbit is their last hope: Adolescence can be hellish, and these kids are getting roasted by high school’s social Darwinism.
Directed by Steven Brill, “Drillbit Taylor” works so well because its script by Rogen and Kristofor Brown (who collaborated with Rogen on producer Judd Apatow’s superb-but-short-lived series “Undeclared”) grafts the writers’ modern sensibilities to Hughes’ nostalgic storytelling style. New wave love songs have been replaced by gangsta rap, and Los Angeles supplants suburban Chicago, but while Team Apatow’s superbad exterior is on display, the beating heart belongs to the bard of Shermer, Ill.
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