Nerds, bullies, and a con artist

Last weekend, Owen Wilson’s new movie, Drillbit Taylor, premiered in theaters. Wilson stars as the title character, a homeless bum that pretends to be an experienced bodyguard to protect three high school nerds from the school bully.

The movie begins like any other high-school bully movie — nerdy boys start high school, bullies single them out, nerds get bullied. But this time, the nerds decide to fight back. Wade (Nate Hartley), Ryan (Troy Gentile), and Emmit (David Dorfman) decide to place an online ad for a bodyguard. Several men show up for the interview process, but the only one willing to settle for the low price they can pay is Drillbit Taylor.

Drillbit claims to be an army veteran with superior skills, but his real goal is to scam the kids and get enough money to move to Canada, where he can supposedly get free land. He steals expensive items from Wade’s house and pawns them, sharing the wealth with his homeless friends. Drillbit and his friends devise a plan to “help” the kids by stealing their expensive items using faulty rationale (stealing a TV will make kids read, and stealing their iPods will make them learn to play the piano).

As the plot unfolds and the boys gain confidence, Drillbit pretends to be a substitute teacher at their school and begins dating a teacher (Leslie Mann), basing his relationship on a stack of lies. As a teacher, he forces the bullies to do extra work. While all of this is going on, Drillbit continues to take advantage of his clients and pretends to teach them martial arts, although much of what they’re taught will never be useful.

In the end, Drillbit changes dramatically, the nerdy boys are confident and popular, and the bully gets sent back to his parents in Hong Kong after hosting drinking parties and accidentally cutting off Drillbit’s finger with a samurai sword. Everyone lives happily ever after, and justice is served.

While Drillbit Taylor has its funny moments, it is, for the most part, like any other high-school bully movie. The plotline is unoriginal, and despite its brief spurts of humor, much of the movie is dull and hackneyed. In addition, some things that are meant to be funny fall short of the humor usually found in Wilson’s movies.

The acting found in the movie isn’t bad in most cases, and it’s easy to take sides in the bully-nerd confrontations. Where some movies portray the bully as a good person that’s just been a little “misguided,” Drillbit Taylor portrays the bully as an all-around bad person — he’s an emancipated minor with no sympathies toward anyone and no traumatic history to make his actions understandable.

The reliance on old stereotypes within the movie creates boring characters with very little depth. The nerdy boys all have their own unoriginal flaws that make them targets for bullying: One is overweight, one is very thin, and one is short. Besides these external, physical issues, we don’t learn much about any of the characters or what they like. The closest insight we get comes from Wade’s interaction with Brooke, a girl he wants to ask on a date, and a video game scene in which Wade and Ryan “train” for their upcoming fight by playing a Street Fighter-esque game. In addition, Wilson’s character was a typical con artist who just happened to be homeless (which, of course, the bullies discovered and used against their victims).

While this movie wasn’t terrible for an unoriginal version of entertainment, it isn’t quite up to Owen Wilson’s usual standard. A few of his lines are funny, but when he isn’t on screen, the movie is hardly worth watching. The most worthwhile reasons to watch this movie are to see a naked Owen Wilson showering on the beach, which is both funny and fun to watch, and the samurai sword scene near the end.