"Drillbit Taylor: Extended Survival Edition" Blu-ray Review
June 30, 2008 by Zach Demeter
Drillbit Taylor arrived in a month (March) when comedies were lacking in theaters and seemed to be a welcome release at the time. Unfortunately the resulting reviews and box office intake were less than stellar for an Owen Wilson headlined picture, co-written by Seth Rogen of Knocked Up and Superbad fame. What the film lacked in comedy it seemed to make up more for in heart, however; unfortunately for movie-goers and those who saw the film based on the trailer alone they wanted more laughs than what the film promised purely from reputation alone.
When friends Wade (Nate Hartley) and Ryan (Troy Gentile) first start high school, they look at it as a fresh start for their social lives. Despite planning a spectacular first day, it quickly unravels when Wade sticks up for fellow newcomer Emmett (David Dorfman) after he was stuffed inside of a locker by school bullies Filkins (Alex Frost) and Ronnie (Josh Peck). Soon the trio is running in fear whenever Filkins and Ronnie rear their heads, either at school or during their commute back home. It becomes evident that they need to hire protection and soon they find help with retired soldier Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson) who offers to help them for a weekly fee and to train them how to deal with bullies.
On the outset the film seems like a funny enough premise; hiring an adult to beat the crap out of the bullies that surround you is an admirable enough unique premise, but the execution was horribly handled. Sadly the funniest moments of the film were given almost entirely in the trailer (aside from one very humorous final bit in the final act of the film) and the rest of the film either had jokes that were either not worth laughing at or, in most cases, the story simply diverted from humorous to a more serious nature at times.
One major hindrance to the plot for me was the character of Drillbit. I didn’t expect him to be a homeless bum before sitting down to watch the film and while that didn’t necessarily turn me off when I learned of it; it certainly broke the story in more ways than one. Instead of feeling partially original in some way, shape or form, the film instead fell into repeated cliché’s that none that particularly served the film well. It’s an odd mixture of film, as there are a few genuinely laugh-out-loud moments, but it just doesn’t really feel like a comedy. Which his unfortunate, as the plotting of the film clearly was set up to be a rich field of hilarious dialogue and situations; instead the film goes overboard on heart and ends up filling the screen with more heartbreak and warm fuzzy moments than real hilarity.
Drillbit Taylor is definitely a tough one to crack and nail down into any particular genre; it wants to be a comedy, but it falls somewhere in between that and drama. It’s not any fault of the actors, as all of the leads and supporting characters in the film do a superb job in their roles and I’m sure the boys in this film will have a strong film career ahead of them (Troy Gentile especially…although he already has quite the lineup of films behind him). The script was just simply not something that held up when it was adapted, which is quite confusing considering Seth Rogen co-wrote it and Judd Apatow produced the film. This was the first Apatow related film that I’ve seen that wasn’t touted as being “From the makers of _____”; perhaps that’s a good thing, as there are few signs that this is even in the same vein of film as Apatow’s previous works.
Perhaps the premise was just too familiar in the end, as the teens-being-bullied angle simply didn’t do it for me (also how big of an idiot do you have to be to drive a SRT-8 Dodge Charger into mailboxes and the like, thus damaging the front end? What kind of idiotic bully ruins his car like that) and Drillbit seemed like a wasted character. I swear I’ve seen the “pretend you’re a substitute teacher” story before (for some reason Mr. Headmistress comes to mind…though God knows why) and the infrequent laughs just aren’t strong enough to keep this film alive.
In the end it’s not that Drillbit Taylor is neither a good nor bad film…it’s simply there. It doesn’t have enough of any one genre to really easily fit in any clear-cut category; in the end, just give this one a Rental. It’s simply not worth it to dedicate too much cash to this film, as the payoff is slim.
Drillbit Taylor arrives on Blu-ray in standard casing with an insert declaring you to, once again, update your player’s firmware. Disc art is the same ol’ matte grey wash and menus are the simple and easy-to-navigate pop-up affair. All material on the set, extras included, are all presented in either 1080i or 1080p and those with PS3’s get a little image to accompany their disc via the PS3 menu interface (it’s a rather poorly done image though…you see Drillbit and one of the kids, while the other is cut off by the awkward cropping).
On the video and audio front Drillbit Taylor comes in a nicely done VC-1 encoded 1080p image that preserves the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio. Plenty of detail in characters faces is seen throughout the picture and the Dolby TrueHD track keeps dialogue clean and clear with frequent surround usage as well as a fair bit of subwoofer output. Simply due to the nature of the film there isn’t a whole lot to be wowed by in the visual department…although that black Dodge Challenger looked really nice.
The first extra to start us off is a rather slipshod commentary. Not that the participants aren’t informative, but the way it’s structured is completely bewildering. They comment on newly added sequences and ask if anymore will be included in an extended cut (am I not…watching the extended cut?). The commentary also seems cut up and split at times, as is they were stopping and starting it for multiple recording sessions. It just seems to be a bit slipshod in execution, but the comments contained in it are interesting enough to check out if you enjoyed the film. If you didn’t…well, I don’t know why you’d move onto the extras.
As mentioned previously the extras on the set are all in 1080i or 1080p. First up in the 1080i camp is "The Writers Get a Chance to Talk: Kristofer Brown and Seth Rogen" (14:00), which has writers Brown and Rogen chatting it up about their work on the film. There’s no video; it’s all phone conversations over stills from the movie and behind-the-scenes images. Next up is a load of completely random behind-the-scenes segments: "Kids on the Loose" (2:41), "Directing Kids" (3:02), "Super Billy" (2:42), "Bully" (2:59), "Bodyguard" (2:55), "Trading Punches" (1:34), "Rap Off" (3:35), "Sprinkler Day" (3:24), "Filkins Fight" (7:15), "The Life of Don" (2:14) and "The Real Don: Danny McBride" (5:46). Each one of these segments covers specific points of production and, obviously, are all mostly short in length. It gets a bit tedious to watch all of these as they’re so short and really not worth it most of the time.
For the 1080p content we have nineteen deleted and extended scenes (23:32) which don’t add a whole lot to the film and had they been left in would have pushed the film over the two hour line (this film already felt a bit long to me to begin with, so it’s nice to see they did trim some of the fat). Next is Line-O-Rama (4:24) which remains the highlight of the set, as they most often are with Apatow productions. Panhandle (3:07) is really just an extended sequence and I’m not entirely sure why it’s not in with the rest of the extended/deleted scenes. Moving on is Gag Reel (4:01) which, surprisingly…really isn’t all that funny; finally there’s the International Trailer (1:48) and "Bodyguard" trailer (2:35) to wrap things up.
It’s a packed release, but the messy organization of short featurettes and the random inclusion of extended sequences outside of the deleted/extended menu give it an air of unprofessionalism…especially when you take into account that oddly stitched together commentary. Whether you purchase this one is really dependant on how much you enjoyed the film, as everyone of the extras hinge on the small chance that you are really in love with the script. A definite Rental only.
Drillbit Taylor arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on July 1st.