Drillbit Taylor Steven Brill

Drillbit Taylor Steven Brill
Drillbit Taylor is never sure if it’s a coming-of-age high school farce, a tale of anti-hero redemption or a meditation on friendship. With Judd Apatow producing, Seth Rogen co-writing and Owen Wilson as the eponymous lead, it has a wealth of comedic talent to draw from. However, it unsuccessfully tries to amalgamate a bevy of disparate plotlines into a simultaneously funny and moving Frankenstein’s monster. Instead, it creates a plodding mix-tape, a Girl-Talk-style mash-up of contemporary comedy hits with only a handful of laughs and an emotional vacancy.

High school freshmen Wade (Nate Hartley) and Ryan (Troy Gentile) — likable younger versions of Michael Cera and Jonah Hill’s Superbad characters, right down to their temperaments and body-types — get serially bullied, subsequently seeking out a bodyguard to protect them. Meanwhile, as the statute of limitations on homeless happiness runs out, an army deserter with less-than-altruistic intentions, the titular Drillbit Taylor (Wilson) cons his way into Wade and Ryan’s employ. Hilarity, misadventure and pathos should ensue but overreaching and heavy recycling bog down the already complex premise.

Suffering from ADHD, subplots abound, including a geek love story, a slapdash heist tale — replete with a coterie of mock-hobo imbeciles — and a father figure thread that relies on passing remarks. The overwrought story starts and stops inexplicably, and characters never receive the room to evolve beyond archetypes.

While a second-act foray into School of Rock territory thankfully allows Wilson to try on his well-worn reprobate-charmer-with-a-heart-of-gold guise (see Wedding Crashers), it pushes the central plotline into disjointed bookends. Furthermore, its gratuitous romantic dalliance wastes the over-cast Leslie Mann (aka Mrs. Apatow), who gets one of the thinnest girlfriend roles in recent memory.

Convolution isn’t the script’s only problem. Occasionally trite (a schoolyard rap battle for cool cachet) and unrealistic (14-year olds referencing He-Man), it belies the talent behind it. With a number of Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared alumni involved, including Apatow, Rogen and co-writer Kristofor Brown, Drillbit’s stock characters, meandering plot, sporadic laughs and forced emotion are particularly disappointing. (Paramount)