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Drillbit Taylor

Nothing New Under the California Sun

Based on a 20-year old story conceived originally by John Hughes and doctored by longtime Judd Apatow collaborators Seth Rogen and Kristofor Brown, Drillbit Taylor has exactly one thing working in its favor -- the goofy charm of star Owen Wilson, who invests a kind of wide-eyed earnestness in every role, no matter how silly or underwritten. Here, his affable persona is on full display, and while some critics have claimed to detect a hint of melancholy in the performance (a result of Wilsonís well-publicized bout with depression), he carries the film as far as it has any right to go.

Problem is, thatís not nearly far enough. While Judd Apatow has become as much a brand name as Hughes during his 80s heyday, the "Freaks and Geeks" creatorís work as a producer (Celtic Pride, Kicking & Screaming) has sometimes paled by comparison with his credits as a director. Drillbit Taylor is no exception. Those expecting Apatowís trademark mix of foul-mouthed raunch and heartfelt sincerity will not be disappointed, but here the jokes seem stale-on-arrival. Wilson and the trio of adorable misfits who pay for his protection can only do so much with them.

The boys, who vaguely resemble the stars of last yearís Superbad, endure a series of humiliations at the hands of an aggressively over-the-top bully (Alex Frost, of Elephant), but their unlikely partnership with Drillbit prompts them to seek payback. (Drillbit is a fraud, a homeless man masquerading as a bodyguard, but his cheery optimism proves inspirational.)

What follows is a series of predictably clumsy fights culminating in a showdown that escalates almost as quickly as the savage showdown from Anchorman, minus the laughs. Not that thereís anything wrong with a little slapstick, but the violence in Drillbit Taylor is gratuitous and oddly tone-deaf. It is a joyless spectacle, a lazily constructed movie divorced from reality and in search of a joke that never quite materializes.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars