A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this teen comedy was produced by Judd Apatow -- who directed the "hard R" comedies The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up -- and co-written by Knocked Up star Seth Rogen (who also co-scripted Superbad). With a PG-13 rating and a focus on high school bullies, the adult humor and language are dialed down a few notches here (there are a couple of bare-butt shots of Drillbit showering, as well as words like "s--t" and "bitch") ... and replaced with relentless, violent bullying behavior. The freshmen are constantly threatened, beaten up, chased, and humiliated. For most of the movie, parents and the principal laugh the behavior off. Also expect plenty of product placement and fat jokes aimed at a young teen.
What's the story?
On the first day of freshman year, Ryan (Troy Gentile) and Wade (Nate Hartley) make a big mistake: They both wear the same T-shirt, which instantly attracts the attentions of senior bullies -- including super creepy Filkins (Alex Frost). Many threats, mean-spirited pranks, and humiliations later, they decide to hire a bodyguard. The only one they can afford, Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson), claims to have an army background, but he's really a homeless army deserter who wants a few hundred bucks to relocate to Canada. That is, until he infiltrates the school as a substitute and hooks up with the English teacher. Oh, and he starts to like the boys too, and decides to actually help them. But does he like them enough to stop his friends' plan to rob Wade's house? Or enough to help his charges when they challenge Filkins to a fight on his turf?
Is it any good?
Like a first-timer's fist fight, DRILLBIT TAYLOR is awkwardly and mean-spiritedly funny for a second -- until it's painful to watch. Wilson's comedic timing is always great, and the kids who play Ryan and Wade are really freshman-boy nerdy in a comical way. A couple of scenes are even pretty laugh-out-loud funny, like when Drillbit realizes that all he needs to pull off the substitute teacher role is to have a coffee cup in his hand. But after that it gets painful.
Why present the boys' nemesis as one-dimensional evil in Eminem's clothing? All great bullies have a little depth -- just look at The Karate Kid. Also, the humor relies on too many scenes of the kids learning how to fight, which slows the movie down and makes it apparent that there's not much here in the way of plot. Then the fighting gets more and more violent to speed things up again -- making the movie less and less funny with every punch. Per formulaic-movie rules, Drillbit saves the boys in the end and works in some great one-liners, but it's not enough to make this a winning comedy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the movie portrays bullies. Do you know bullies like Filkins, or is he just a caricature of a freshman's worst nightmare? What would you do in the boys' situation? Even though the principal's total obliviousness was for laughs, do you think there's some truth to the idea that adults don't take the problem seriously? What other forms does bullying take these days? Is it always physical, or are there other ways bullies can hurt people?
- In theaters: March 19, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: June 30, 2008
- Cast: Nate Hartley, Owen Wilson, Troy Gentile
- Director: Steven Brill
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 102 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: crude sexual references throughout, strong bullying, language, drug references and partial nudity.
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