Produced by Judd Apatow and co-written by Apatow’s BFF Seth Rogen Drillbit is a little bit My Bodyguard a little bit Freaks and Geeks. The story focuses on three geeky high school freshman--Ryan (Troy Gentile) Wade (Nate Hartley) and Emmet (David Dorfman)--who become primary target practice for the campus bully Filkins (Alex Frost). Enter Drillbit Taylor (Wilson) a homeless Army deserter who answers the boys’ ad for a bodyguard mainly because he wants to rip them off. During the course of the movie however Drillbit teaches the boys how to stick up for themselves and grows to care about them especially after he pretends to be a substitute teacher at their school--you know to “watch” over them. It’s a cool gig for the drifter since he gets free coffee a new girlfriend (Leslie Mann as a horny English teacher) and newfound respect. Eventually everything goes to hell in a hand basket as they are wont to do but at least everyone walks away learning some valuable life lessons. We should say “Awww ” but thankfully the script keeps the gag reflex to a minimum. While Wilson may be phoning it in a little as Drillbit--a likeable rascal who’s a cross between a Dupree and a Wedding Crasher--his certain charismatic style is undeniable on screen. You can’t help but like him in whatever he does even if the film he is in pales by comparison. Not to say the rest of Drillbit’s cast isn’t supporting Wilson as best they can. The unlucky geek squad is full of fresh faces with newcomers Gentile and Hartley capturing their inner nerd with a passion. Many will also recognize Dorfman as the spooky kid from the Ring series now a pipsqueak-y teen. Frost (Elephant) has the crazy eyes of a psychotic teenager bent on humiliation and destruction of those who stand in his way. Realistic? Perhaps not but he makes a decent villain. Mann is handed the smallest part possible but makes her presence known. Her mini-seduction scene with Wilson in the teacher’s lounge is definitely one of the film’s better moments. Still this is Wilson’s movie and frankly he can do better. Seth Rogen must have had a hell of a time in high school--he can’t quit writing about it. On Judd Apatow’s first effort TV’s Freaks and Geeks Rogen played a high school freak while last summer’s Superbad which he co-wrote with former high school bud Evan Goldberg took high school geekdom to a whole new level. Now he and Apatow team up on another I’m-a-geek-in-high-school-but-stay-true-to-myself effort hiring director Steven Brill to helm the proceedings who brings his own level of expertise having directed such comedy favorites as Without a Paddle and Little Nicky. Drillbit does have its hilarious moments--a montage of hiring a bodyguard stands out (including the cameo from the original My Bodyguard Adam Baldwin)--but overall it just isn’t as fresh and different as other Apatow/Rogen collaborations. They seem to have forgotten how not to rehash past experiences--or past movies. There's also the fact that Drillbit is PG; by surpressing the colorful language it may have hindered their creativity. Either way the current comedy kings miss the mark this time around.
In this film based on the Newbery Award-winning children's book by Kate DiCamillo Opal (AnnaSophia Robb) is a lonely 10-year-old girl who has moved to a sluggish small town in Florida with her preacher father (Jeff Daniels). She has a tough time getting through to her dad: when he is not preaching the gospel he walks around in a haze haunted by the departure of Opal's mother many years before. But when Opal adopts Winn-Dixie named after the supermarket where she found the mutt things start to brighten up for the little girl. With her special companion by her side Opal ends up meeting some pretty interesting people in the town. They include Miss Franny (Eva Marie Saint) the local spinster librarian who spins great stories; Otis (Dave Matthews) the shy drifter working at Gertrude's Pet Shop; and Gloria (Cicely Tyson) an old blind lady living with ghosts from her past. Through Opal's sunny disposition and Winn-Dixie doggone tenaciousness they help the town find their joy and their sorrow. And at the same time they mend Opal's troubled relationship with her father. Collectively now awwww!
All the players fit snugly in this warmhearted movie especially the talented young Robb who makes her feature film debut in Winn-Dixie. It's imperative to cast an adorable child and Robb doesn't disappoint keeping things genuinely fresh with the big eyes infectious smile and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm charm. Daniels too doesn't overplay it as the wounded preacher--aptly described by Opal as a turtle--who rarely sticks his head out of his shell. Veterans Eva Marie Saint and Cicely Tyson do what they can with their stereotypical parts as the kindly spinster storyteller and kindly old wise woman respectively. But it's singer-turned-actor Dave Matthews who stands out as the drifter with a troubled past but can "sing most anything " even charming the animals in the pet shop á la the Pied Piper. His poignant performance is up there in the sentiment department.
Here we go with the children and the animals again. Wayne Wang (Maid in Manhattan The Joy Luck Club) is the latest director to take a stab at guiding those most unpredictable of actors. As he explains "Sometimes the going is slow. But then suddenly something magical happens that you couldn't possibly have planned or anticipated." It's true. There are definite moments of inspired sweetness especially between Opal and Winn-Dixie played by a Picardy Shepherd a rare breed of dog from France that has the look of a big old lovable mutt. And of course you can't go too wrong using heart-tugging material based on a beloved children's novel on par with Where the Red Fern Grows and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. That's also Because of Winn-Dixie main problem. Fans of the book will certainly love the film but overall it doesn't really offer anything new in this genre. It's the same general premise about the kid and a dog--or a horse a deer whichever animal works best--who can change the lives of those around them just from being pure of heart. Maybe it's the curmudgeon in me but Winn-Dixie just doesn't stand out among the plethora of films similar to it.
January 11, 2002 11:05am EST
Shaun Brumder (Colin Hanks) is sitting on the beach pondering the mysteries of life after losing his surfing buddy to a tsunami when he finds a copy of Marcus Skinner's novel Straitjacket buried in the sand. The book by a mythical Kerouac-type author who teaches at Stanford University profoundly influences Shaun who in turn decides he will become a writer. But Shaun's dreams of attending Stanford and studying under the guidance of his new mentor get squashed when a scatterbrained guidance counselor sends the wrong transcripts to the university. With the help of his peace-loving girlfriend Ashley (Schuyler Fisk) and his junkie brother Lance (Jack Black) the trio sets off to Stanford to convince school officials to reconsider his application before the deadline the following day. After a series of catastrophes Shaun becomes convinced that his dysfunctional family is conspiring to keep him in Orange County.
Colin Hanks (Get Over It not to mention Tom Hank's son) is the film's protagonist Shaun Brumder. He and his on-screen sweetheart played by Schuyler Fisk (Snow Day not to mention Sissy Spacek's daughter) bring quality to a good script suffering from shaky direction. The two interact quite naturally and make a pretty sweet couple. Jack Black (Shallow Hal) is hysterical and not just when he is standing around half-naked and dirty. Some of the funniest scenes are when Black's character Lance tries to be serious and stoned at the same time. Catherine O'Hara (Best in Show) plays Shaun's boozy mother without going over the top and John Lithgow (Third Rock from the Sun) is equally convincing as his rich father now married to someone half his age. There are several notable cameo appearances from actors including Lily Tomlin Ben Stiller Kevin Kline and Chevy Chase but they do not bring anything unique to their performances.
Orange County is directed by Jake Kasdan (Zero Effect) who more recently directed episodes of teen TV series Freaks and Geeks Undeclared and Grosse Pointe--and it shows. While the script is hilarious and the acting above par the pacing is a bit uneven. The film jumps from really gross shots of Black prancing around in his skanky underpants to sentimentalized family issues that are a little too real to be funny. Then we are subject to scenes of Shaun's wheelchair-bound stepfather rolling out onto the street and getting hit by a car being the target of falling objects or crying out in pain because no one remembers to give him his medication. When did the blatant neglect of invalids become funny? Unfortunately these elements did not come together very well. Of course Kasdan does not resist the temptation of subjecting us to a dreaded college frat party scene involving flaky teenage girls and pompous college boys that with the help of Monica Keena (Undeclared) almost felt like a sitcom.