It's Ferris Bueller's Homeless Day Off!
If Drillbit Taylor, a comedy about a pair of high school nerds who hire a homeless man to protect them from menacing bullies, sounds like something plucked straight from the '80s, it's because that's exactly what it is. The movie's origins can be traced back to an idea hatched decades ago by John Hughes (credited by his screenwriting pseudonym "Edmond Dantes"), the iconic director responsible for teen comedy classics Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Breakfast Club. Years later, Paramount salvaged the long-forgotten project, dusted it off and handed it to reigning comedy master Judd Apatow, who enlisted the help of collaborators Seth Rogen and Kristofer Brown to give the story a 21st century update.
Nate Hartley and Troy Gentile star as Wade and Ryan, the quintessential movie nerd combo. Wade's tall and gangly, Ryan short and portly, and both are painfully awkward social outcasts, as they learn all too well when a pair of particularly nefarious bullies target them on their very first day of high school. And on the second day. And the third, and so on. (True to the rules of the Hughesian universe, all parents, teachers and school administrators are either clueless, indifferent or just plain malevolent.) Desperate to stem the tide of daily humiliation, they concoct a plan to hire a bodyguard to protect them from the relentless tormentors.
Lacking the funds for a premium protector, Wade and Ryan settle on the low-budget Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson), a homeless Army deserter masquerading as a former Black Ops specialist and bodyguard to the stars. Taylor intends to use the gig to raise enough cash to move to the more indigent-friendly confines of Canada, while his homeless pals (none of whom, oddly enough, evince any signs of crippling mental illness or drug addiction typical of most of the homeless folks I've encountered in Los Angeles) work on a plan to rob the nerdy kids' houses.
Radiating the irresistible charisma of a homeless Ferris Bueller, Drillbit infiltrates the kids' high school, gains employment as a substitute teacher and commences turning the bullies into the bullied. Oh, and he also succeeds in charming the pants off (literally) a comely English teacher (Leslie Mann).
But wouldn't you know it (well, you would if you've seen just about any of John Hughes's flicks), huckster Drillbit eventually takes a liking to his plucky clients, his fetching paramour and his newfound (and entirely fraudulent) status as a respectable member of society. All of which becomes imperiled when his deceitful scheme is inadvertently exposed.
Whether you find Drillbit Taylor's "straight outta 1989" motif gleefully nostalgic or painfully anachronistic will depend largely on your affinity toward Mr. Hughes, as his distinctive imprint can be felt throughout the story. Much harder to detect is the influence of Apatow and writers Rogen and Brown, who seem too constrained by the film's PG-13 tone to make a meaningful impact. In the end, the awkward final result plays something like a Nickelodeon movie with naughty language.
Disagree? Let me know at tleupp@Reelz.com.