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Drillbit Taylor: Extended Survival Edition DVD Review

Drillbit Taylor movie poster Drillbit Taylor

Theatrical Release: March 21, 2008 / Running Time: 110 Minutes (Extended Version) / Rating: Not Rated (Theatrical Cut: PG-13)

Director: Steven Brill / Writers: Edmond Dantes (story), Kristofor Brown, Seth Rogen

Cast: Owen Wilson (Drillbit Taylor), Leslie Mann (Lisa Zachey), Nate Hartley (Wade), Troy Gentile (Ryan), David Dorfman (Emmit Oosterhaus), Alex Frost (Terry Filkins), Josh Peck (Ronnie Lampanelli), Danny McBride (Don), Stephen Root (Principal Doppler), Lisa Ann Walter (Dolores), Ian Roberts (Jim), Beth Littleford (Barbara), Casey Boersma (Chuck), Dylan Boersma (Nick), David Bowe (Male Teacher), Valerie Tian (Brooke), Cedric Yarbrough (Bernie), Robert Musgrave (Stump), Bill O'Neill (Dean), Lisa Lampanelli (Mrs. Lampanelli)

Buy Drillbit Taylor from Amazon.com: Extended Survival Edition DVD • Theatrical Cut DVD • Extended Survival Edition Blu-ray Disc

You're sure to recognize a number of the names on the back of the Drillbit Taylor DVD case. There's Owen Wilson, regular Ben Stiller co-star and Wes Anderson collaborator, claiming his first solo vehicle. There's producer Judd Apatow, currently one of the biggest names in big screen comedies for his streak of acclaimed, profitable fare. Seth Rogen, who has risen the ranks with Apatow, makes this his second screenplay following last summer's hit Superbad.
Also listed amidst the others is Edmond Dantes, who you may recall as the hero of Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. This Dantes is actually the pen name of John Hughes, the writer-director of iconic 1980s teen films like Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Breakfast Club. Hughes is attributed with story, one of few credits he's received in the ten years since he left Hollywood after a string of derided family-oriented remakes and sequels.

It is pretty easy to see certain aspects of each major player's work in Drillbit Taylor. The high concept belongs purely to Hughes and would have comfortably fit in his resumι two dozen years ago. There's the teen angst that figured in Hughes' high school films and Apatow's treasured one-season NBC dramedy "Freaks and Geeks." From Rogen and co-writer Kristofor Brown ("Undeclared", "Beavis and Butt-head"), we can detect the sympathetic, veracious voice of today's socially outcast teens and their world. And in Wilson, the glue, there is an off-kilter hero who has our support. Even with all these things going for it, Drillbit falls short of adding up to the comedy gem you're hoping for.

The film divides its attentions between geeks and a bum. The geeks are three years younger (and more innocent) but otherwise practically identical to the teens of Superbad. Wade (Nate Hartley) is shy and skinny, Ryan (Troy Gentile) is curly-haired and fat, and nerdy Emmit (David Dorfman) is company as barely welcome as McLovin. On the first day of high school, best friends Wade and Ryan make the critical mistake of accidentally wearing the same bowling shirt. Even worse, Wade's conscience prompts him to speak up when Emmit is being roughed up by a pair of feared upperclassmen. Instantly, the three freshmen are lumped together by the bullies (Alex Frost and Josh Peck) as an easy, irresistible target for torment.

Flamboyant Emmit (David Dorfman), portly Ryan (Troy Gentile), and the gangly Wade (Nate Hartley) spot their tormentors just outside McKinley High. Bum-turned-bodyguard Bob "Drillbit" Taylor (Owen Wilson) teaches his young wards to block out pain with a demonstration.

As a skeptical principal (Stephen Root) and unhelpful parents give them no alternative means of escape from the relentless thugs, Wade, Ryan, and Emmit decide to pool their money and hire a group bodyguard. The only one they can afford is "Drillbit" Taylor (Wilson), who describes himself as an accomplished war veteran although we know him to be a homeless bum. Accepting $83 as a first payment,
Drillbit claims he can help the bullied freshmen stand up to their foes. With confidence, he shares some of his self-defense expertise and effortlessly slips into a substitute teacher position at the school, all the while harboring plans of his own.

The movie is consistently diverting. Its narrowly creative approach to routine adolescent conflict takes it far. As does Owen Wilson, who is as likable a two-timing homeless bum as cinema is likely to see anytime soon. The role of the laid-back vagrant does not stretch Wilson's range but it does confirm his abilities as likable leading man.

While remaining spirited and easy to take, Drillbit Taylor is never as sharp as it can be. It juggles layers and subplots without them aligning comfortably or getting sufficient attention. Its central plot of bullying is stretched thin being pushed as far as possible. There's a romance with Leslie Mann that's humorous but not satisfactorily realized. The relationship of bum and geeks is simply a little too creepy and twisted for either film or viewer to get fully behind. Meanwhile, the geek actors absolutely look and sound their parts, but they're unable to squeeze many laughs out of their material.

The relentless bullies of the film: Filkins (Alex Frost) and Ronnie (Josh Peck) strike a presence in the school locker hallway. Posing as a substitute teacher Dr. Illbit, Drillbit catches the eye of fellow educator Miss Lisa Zachey (Leslie Mann).

In spite of its shortcomings, I found quite a bit more to like than dislike about this amiable comedy. I can see audiences being more divided. Those looking for the racy edge of Apatow's other recent hits won't find it here; this is strictly PG-13 territory. And yet, parents of interested middle school-aged children might object to the profanity, ongoing fist violence, and occasionally crude content.

These potentially discouraging contradictions couldn't be noticed without seeing the film and yet a surprising many moviegoers stayed away from Drillbit for whatever other reasons. The movie's domestic gross of $33 million put it at the bottom of 2008 films treated to release in 3,000 or more theaters. Still, its earnings could be considered mid-level when viewed alongside its cinematic brethren, most modestly attended during the first four months of the year.

This week, Paramount brings Drillbit Taylor to DVD and Blu-ray in three different versions. The subject of this review, the Extended Survival Edition DVD, provides an unrated (still PG-13-worthy) cut that clocks in 8-9 minutes longer than the theatrical cut. That is all that's available on Blu-ray, but DVD customers can also choose to own the original theatrical version in a disc that drops a few of the Survival Edition's bonuses. For more on all three, just keep reading.

Buy Drillbit Taylor: Extended Survival Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, French, Spanish),
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Video Extras Subtitled
Release Date: July 1, 2008
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $12.99 (Reduced from $34.99)
Black Keepcase with Side Snaps
Also available in Theatrical Cut DVD
and on Extended Survival Edition Blu-ray Disc


Appearing in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1, Drillbit Taylor doesn't make a great impression on the senses. The sunny picture arrives with perfect sharpness, clarity, and colors, while the crisp, straightforward sound mix exists without problems or any remarkable characteristics.


Bonus features begin with an upbeat audio commentary that's led by director Steven Brill and writer/producer Kristofor Brown. For varying stretches, they're joined by young actors David Dorfman (10:00-24:00), Troy Gentile (36:30-1:12:00), and Nate Hartley (1:02:30-end). All the speakers share interesting production stories and observations about onscreen actors and their other work. It's not a track to educate budding comedy filmmakers, but it does an adequate job of informing and entertaining Drillbit fans.

"The Writers Get a Chance to Talk" (13:55) is a phone conversation between Kristofor Brown and Seth Rogen that plays over a slideshow of production and publicity photos. They discuss discarded ideas and the challenges of following studio advice.

More of Frank Whaley, seen briefly as the jittery one of the prospective bodyguards, is preserved in the Deleted/Extended Scenes section. Director Steven Brill gives Rap Off pointers to Troy Gentile on the "Drillbit Taylor" set. Rising comedic star Danny McBride reflects on his homeless supporting character Don.

Next up are 13 deleted and extended scenes that run 17 minutes altogether.
A roughly even mix of deletions and alternate edits, there's some overlap with what's in the film but still enough unique and amusing content to justify checking it out. Most substantial in the lot are Drillbit's poolside lesson, second pawn shop visit, and demanding gym class.

The phrase "Line-o-Rama" (4:25) should be familiar to those who have encountered any recent high-profile Apatow comedy on DVD. It shows off a variety of unused lines, many of which are improvised, that hold some comic value. In a similar vein is a 4-minute gag reel, which is a little lighter on laughs than other outtake features.

The remaining supplements discussed are exclusive to the Extended Survival Edition DVD.

Three short extras take us inside the production of major scenes with rehearsal, direction, and B-roll footage. "Rap Off" (3:35), "Sprinkler Day" (3:25), and "Bully" (3:00) are raw and minimally revealing, but worth a look.

"Directing Kids" (3:00) finds Steven Brill reflecting on his experiences of working with child actors. Of course, there are both set clips and sarcasm.

Finally, "The Real Don: Danny McBride" (5:42) lets rising star McBride (of acclaimed indie The Foot Fist Way and Apatow and Rogen's upcoming Pineapple Express), a supporting player in Drillbit, discuss his character, inspirations, and technique. Needless to say, there's a tongue in cheek.

At the start of the disc, trailers play for J.J. Abrams' upcoming Star Trek and Iron Man. These are also played from the last extras listing "Previews", after a trailer for The Spiderwick Chronicles.

Though the bonus features seem solid in number, they're fairly slight when running time is considered. If you agree and want more, you may be glad to know that the Blu-ray version of the film contains a number of exclusives: six additional deleted scenes, seven additional featurettes, and two trailers.

The menus are unusually simple: static screens and score excerpts. Livening them up some are a handful of short transitional clips. There are no inserts inside the standard side-snapped case.

Squint and it's easy to see younger versions of the Superbad leads Seth and Evan in Ryan and Wade, who have the grave misfortune of wearing the same shirt on the first day of high school. Drillbit shares some of his wisdom with the boys.


Without breaking its mold or qualifying as a surprise, Drillbit Taylor nonetheless offers a good time on the charms of Owen Wilson and a brisk script. Though unfavorable reviews and weak box office attendance would suggest otherwise, this entertaining comedy puts its witty ideas to good use and yields amusement in the process. A viewing is encouraged and I'm sure many will consider the movie worth owning.

Those who wish to buy it are given a choice by Paramount with no clear winner. The Extended Survival Edition reviewed would appear to be the better value with added footage and a few additional extras. But more isn't always better and, without seeing it, I suspect the tighter theatrical cut may be more astute. But unless you opt for the Blu-ray Disc and its further exclusives, either DVD version should provide a similarly enjoyable experience.

Buy Drillbit Taylor from Amazon.com:
Extended Survival Edition DVD / Theatrical Cut DVD / Extended Survival Edition Blu-ray

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Owen Wilson:
Marley & Me • Bottle Rocket • The Darjeeling Limited • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Cars • Fantastic Mr. Fox • The Wendell Baker Story • Night at the Museum • Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Produced by Judd Apatow: Superbad • Knocked Up • Year One • Funny People • The TV Set
New to DVD: The Spiderwick Chronicles • Semi-Pro • Strange Wilderness • Mama's Boy • Jumper
17 Again • Juno • Max Keeble's Big Move • Sky High • Back to School (Extra-Curricular Edition)
Blades of Glory • Over Her Dead Body • The Heartbreak Kid • Balls of Fury • Evan Almighty

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Reviewed July 1, 2008.

Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2008 Paramount Pictures and Paramount Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.