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Drillbit Taylor 

John Hughes wrote an early draft of Drillbit Taylor, and it’s easy to see where it fits into Hughes’ respect for youth and where it was taken away from him. The most fitting comparison with the story of three outcast high schoolers that hire a bodyguard named Drillbit (Owen Wilson) to fight the school bullies is Weird Science. In that movie, the nerd heroes seek status by creating a supermodel girlfriend on one of their computers. The kids end up gaining confidence instead, learning they can make it through on their own charm. This twist seems obvious, but it’s conceptually perfect. It almost happens in Drillbit Taylor, too, and then it denies its characters growth. When conman Drillbit poses as a substitute teacher, his longing for adult responsibility should snap into focus. It’s just as natural that the trio finds they don’t need Drillbit’s services when their time with him gives them the dignity to talk to girls. But some studio head felt it was important to end with the big fight, so after last week’s Never Back Down we get a second specifically arranged “fight party” (must be a suburban US phenomenon). The teenage leads fill the exact same angry fat kid, democratic skinny kid and tagalong third kid demo as Superbad. Co-writer Seth Rogan is now on a streak of movies where the angry fat kid is meant to represent his younger self. That’s more self-absorbed than M. Night Shyamalan’s ever been. The bully Filkins (Alex Frost) starts by trapping students in lockers and ends up wielding a samurai sword. He’s so one-note-evil that he’s made sympathetic simply because the movie’s so stacked against him. Drillbit’s the epitome of a solid premise watered down to disinterest.

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Vol 25, No 12
August 17, 2017

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