I can't say I'm a huge Owen Wilson fan, though I by no means dislike him. I found myself in the theater for Drillbit Taylor because it is yet another movie in a slew of Judd Apatow productions. This story was co-written by Superbad scribe Seth Rogen. However, his writing partner was Kristofer Brown who previously worked on The Tom Green Show, Beavis and Butthead, and Undeclared, the short lived Apatow sitcom that Rogen starred in. Brown and Rogen's movie left me entertained and with two questions: Can Rogen write a movie that isn't loosely based on himself? If he can't, should I care as long as I keep laughing?
Drillbit Taylor follows three hapless high school students in their quest to be cool and have girls like them. If that plot sounds familiar, it's because it's essentially the plot of Superbad. The three guys even mirror the Superbad guys. Ryan is Seth, the overweight curly haired kid with quick wit (and a love for rap this go around). Wade is Evan, the ridiculously skin and soft spoken nice guy. Emmit is Fogell aka McLovin, the most awkward of the three that Ryan doesn't even really want to be friends with. The main difference here is that the guys are starting high school, not ending it, so they're less concerned with alcohol and more concerned with the local bully-cum-psychopath.
Enter Own Wilson as Drillbit Taylor, a bum with a knack for bullshit. The story proceeds as you would expect from PG-13 Rogen fare. The kids hire Drillbit to protect them. He starts out cold and then grows a heart. Punches are thrown and the hits are taken in comedic fashion. There are even a few cool cameos for those intimately familiar with the Apatow brand of comedy. And yes, every once in awhile one of Rogen's trademark vulgar or pop culture insults slips through. He even manages to reference his next movie, Panda Express, at one point.
What's most disappointing about Drillbit Taylor is the under utilization of Leslie Mann, Apatow's wife. When Drillbit infiltrates the school by impersonating a substitute teacher, the two begin a lust based relationship. However, their pairing disappears, only to be tied up quickly at the end. I understand that the movie isn't a romantic comedy and the point was to forefront the relationship between Drillbit in the kids, but Mann's character could have been used to add resonance to Drillbit's change. It almost seems as if she was added simply to have an adult female presence in the movie.
Overall, it plays like Superbad light. It's cute, it's funny, and it has Owen Wilson. If you're a huge Superbad fan, you'll find yourself yearning for Seth's vulgarity and Fogell's unwitted goofiness. If you're not yet of Superbad age, Drillbit Taylor can serve as your training wheels. If you're neither and just looking for a funny weekend diversion, you could do far worse.