The trailers noting a is from the same people that brought us "Superbad," "Knocked Up," and "The 40 Year Old Virgin" has been a pretty good sales vehicle, it seems, but eventually that juice card begins to run dry. "Drillbit Taylor may very well be the beginning of that oasis becoming parched.
Nerdy Wade and chubby Ryan are going into high school, and off to a great start when they both wear the same red flaming dice shirt on the first day of school. Wade attracts the ire of bully Filkins when he speaks up as the bully is stuffing Emit into a locker and stops Filkins. Filkins and his sidekick then begin tormenting the two, until they finally look to hire a bodyguard.
Drillbit claims Army training, but was discharged for "unauthorized heroics," and says the 'Army of One' is really where the 'one' is the entire unit, and winning the war yourself is frowned upon. He doesn't mention he lives in a makeshift tent in the city park, and showers nude on the beach along the side of the road. After the three teens interview several guys (all wanting a lot of money), Drillbit gets hired for the random sum of $387 (the cost Drillbit figures it will take to relocate to the far northern reaches of Canada).
I suppose conceptually, not a bad pitch. But a bit familiar-feeling. Ryan both looks, acts, and has the angst of the "Superbad" character Seth. As does Wade to Evan in that same film, right down to the classes and skinny-ish appearances. Also paralleled by the undesired third member (Emit here and the Fogel character in "Superbad). The only compelling difference is the rite of passage here is going into high school, and in the previous film, graduating from it.
When you carry over a number of folks between films, the feeling may be a hard one to break. Writer Seth Rogen and producer Judd Apatow have their signatures of the bulk of the aforementioned films, and director Steven Brill, whose resume is a litany of mediocre films at best (in terms of comedic value, anyway).
There was some laughs, a few genuine and others because it seemed the right place to laugh for the price of admission, but by and large the gags weren't anything we'd not already seen in the previous films, delivered by characters that seemed as familiar and welcome as out-of-town relatives in for the holidays.
Owen Wilson seems to be waning a bit in terms of the caliber of roles he's taken on, and with "Wedding Crashers" nearing three years past, he needs to grab the reins of a faster horse pretty soon. He looked the part of a homeless guy for the film, but I couldn't help but wonder how much of that was great costume design and makeup, or if part of it is the sheen of fading glory. (I'm hoping for the former but fearing the latter.)
It's not a bad film in so much as it's not a great one. As comedies go, there are funnier options out there, and more than a few of the laughs we got for free during trailers and previews. But much like Wilson picking the right horse to pull him forward, it's a game of chance picking the best place to spend your $10 movie money; for my money, I might have done better shopping around a bit more.