Drillbit Taylor, a comedy about three youths who hire a "bodyguard" to protect them from school bullies, may be produced by Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin), but it doesn't really fit into the Apatow filmography of manic modern comedies. It feels like it belongs to a different continuum of film -- the lazy-yet-agreeable teen comedies of the '80s, where a simple hook gets festooned and garlanded with bits of business and digressions. That's not surprising, considering that one of the credited writers is that '80s comedy titan of teen John Hughes, shielded behind a pseudonym. It's not wholly retro -- the off-kilter, lazy charm of Owen Wilson in the lead role feels too modern for that -- but it also feels like a film we've seen many times before in form and flavor, and while it may not be consistently brilliant or laugh-out-loud funny all the way through, it is at the least consistently amusing.
Wade (Nate Hartley) and Ryan (Troy Gentile) are just entering high school; they're eager to move to the next phase of their lives. Wade is slight, bespectacled and intrinsically decent; Ryan is a beefy, big-boned boy, funny and outgoing. (Comparisons to Michael Cera and Jonah Hill in Superbad are not undeserved; Superbad co-writer Seth Rogen is credited here alongside Kristofor Brown, working from a story by John Hughes -- here credited as, in a shout-out to English majors nationwide, Edmond Dantes.) They're both looking forward to the opportunities for social re-invention their new environment offers: Ryan tells Wade "I don't want you to call me Ryan; call me T-Dog." But when minuscule, nervy, nerdy classmate Emmit (David Dorfman) is being shoved into a locker, Wade does the ethically right but tactically wrong thing of speaking up, and thereby places himself and Ryan on the radar of snake-eyed sociopathic school bully Filkins (Alex Frost) and his partner-in-thuggery Ronnie (Josh Peck).