Posts Tagged ‘Owen Wilson’



June 14, 2008

Drillbit Taylor Review


Length: 109 min

You get what you pay for.
Budget Bodyguard.
The best bodyguard pocket money can buy.

Précis: Formulaic and disagreeable comedy about a budget bodyguard’s lazy efforts to protect some kids from a psycho-bully.

Review by Matt:

I was a bit wary, but I still thought Drillbit Taylor – a comedy film from Judd Apatow’s team (Superbad, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up) – had a premise with some potential. A couple of bullied kids are sick of spending their days hanging by their underpants, so they hire themselves a bodyguard. Pocket money can’t get you much so they end up with raggedy drifter, Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson). It’s a movie that might have been charming and funny. It’s not. It’s messy, lackluster, and has a bit of a sour attitude. The film also has a funny tagline: “You get what you pay for”. You don’t. If only it were true and paying the theatre price could actually guarantee a decent comedy.

Instead, Drillbit Taylor gives us hackneyed nonsense that is dissatisfying on every level. As soon as we see a few simple plot pieces drifting toward each other, we know what is going to happen. Bullied boys Ryan (Troy Gentile) and Wade (Nate Hartley) are without father figures (or in Wade’s case, he has an unbearable ‘gotta-be-a-winner’ step-dad who philosophises that bullies toughen up weedy kids). Cash-strapped Drillbit enters the scene and initially loiters just to organize a jackpot homeless-hit on Wade’s house. But with a bit of “I hope you’re our friend forever” shenanigans, and the beginnings of a romance with the kids’ female teacher (Leslie Mann, in a perplexing nymphomaniac role), Drillbit starts to feel responsible for his little soldiers.

Sounds familiar. School of Rock also recently used little kids to reform an incorrigible slacker in the form of Jack Black, only that movie wasn’t as caustic and Jack Black was more likeable. There’s not much to like about Drillbit the wandering scam-artist, and it’s a cheat if we’re expected to like him just because he’s embodied by charismatic Owen Wilson. The film suffers from systemic unevenness. By the end, we’re not only expected to like Drillbit, but the bullying nastiness has rocketed to an over-the-top degree, and violence is suddenly the problem-solver that saves the day and gets you the girl. There ends up being a gulf between our attitude to the film and its self-perception, because its wavering plot knocks us all askew.

You could forgive the lack of originality and frayed plot if the humour was really sharp. There’s a bit of spark there with a few laughs and some amusing dialogue – mainly from the kids – but it can’t save the sinking wreck. And there are a decent amount of those mis-hit jokes where in the silence afterwards all you can hear is a cricket chirruping outside. The two main kids are good. They have a believable kid-like presence and a decent sense of comedy. They even look a bit like they’re modeled on Laurel and Hardy. I don’t know who the third, irritating, hanger-on kid (Emmit – David Dorfman) is supposed to be modeled on though. Although I loathe bullies, I found myself guiltily thinking he would have made good crab bait.

By the time the end arrives, you’re pleased to see it, and at least there is a bouncy Weezer song over the credits to help restore your mood as you exit (and for all of you wondering, the song is Photograph off Weezer’s excellent Green Album). It leaves you wondering about poor old Owen Wilson, who is a good comedic actor, but found himself again stuck in an ordinary film with mostly unworkable material. He might be a bit like the female teacher in this movie who complains that she has some kind of unconscious attraction to losers. Drillbit Taylor is also a good reminder that current comedy golden boys Seth Rogen (who co-scripted) and Judd Apatow (who produced) maybe aren’t as special as people boast. They need to work harder than this, and Hollywood definitely has a long way to go before it can claim there is a ‘comedy renaissance’ going on.



April 26, 2008

The Darjeeling Limited Review


Length: 91 min

Précis: Typically stylish and eccentric Wes Anderson affair, but it’s faster, funnier and more engaging than previous efforts.

Review by Matt:

The Darjeeling Limited is the latest comedy/drama film from director Wes Anderson, an idiosyncratic American auteur whose previous films include The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Neither of those films appealed much to me, and I especially found The Life Aquatic tedious and distancing. The Darjeeling Limited is redolent of those films in its themes, style and cast (estranged family + deadpan tragicomedy + Owen Wilson/Bill Murray = Wes Anderson) but it is a better film and much easier to enjoy. It’s helped especially by a fast-paced first half and an irreverent wit. It’s an unusual and original (apart from other Wes Anderson films) look at familial relations.

The plot is a wandering affair following three American brothers’ reunion on an Indian train. The eldest, Francis (Owen Wilson), is a micromanager who has suckered his younger siblings Peter (Adrian Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman) into joining him for a trip of spiritual and fraternal healing. Squashed for a large part of the film inside busy carriages, the brothers pinball off each other with a humorous mix of familial love and violence, fueled mostly by the recent death of their father and the manifestation of various afflictions. These include broken hearts, suicidal tendencies, prescription Indian drug abuse, fear of commitment and, in the case of Francis, a comically bandaged body due to injuries suffered in a recent motorcycle accident. The brothers hop on and off the train, bicker, reminisce, and eventually trek out into the Indian countryside in search of a mystical experience and for their estranged mother who is now a Himalayan nun.

The joy of this film is in its beautiful and fussy detail. The screen bustles with both random and revealing accoutrements and the characters are spontaneous and full of quirks. Francis lugs around a mountain of luggage and hobbles on his cane, Peter squints through his father’s prescription glasses, and Jack won’t wear shoes. Odd encounters drive the plot. For the film’s first half these are all strangely funny and there is a great sense of chaotic energy. An interesting array of side characters supports the trio of tragicomics, most of them sharing the same aloof Bill-Murray-style persona.

The Darjeeling Limited puts us on a pretty bumpy ride. Even when you think you know where you’re going, you’re likely to smack into a glass door. It has a freeform plot and, like its titular train that inexplicably loses its way in the Indian wilderness, it takes the viewers seemingly in random directions. Its structure reflects a journey rather than a neat narrative. Thus we suddenly find the brothers crashing from comic to tragic territory and the film’s second half becomes slow and meditative. It makes the film seem longer than its 90 minutes. Some viewers could feel disgruntled at the clashing tones and sprawling plot. But there’s still plenty to appreciate in the film’s looseness.

What is most admirable is the meaning that slowly emerges as you weave together a thousand scraggly threads of detail. Little things the brothers do, say to each other, and encounters they have, blend together with a nice mix of intrigue and revelation. The film is also smashingly designed, with its classy framing and tracking shots, a colourful set, and the occasional enjoyable intrusion of turbulent Indian life. Add in the atmospheric soundtrack and you’ve a stylishness that really coats on a bonus layer of pleasure.

Like other Wes Anderson films, The Darjeeling Limited remains a potential audience divider, but it’s the best of his films for showcasing his sense of stylish melancholy, and probably the film with the most accessible characters (though they still mostly remain ponderous). It may not be totally emotionally satisfying, but you’ll at least see an individual style in action, and it could be the style that tickles you just right. Or it could annoy you. I found it a funny and fascinating ride.