'Drillbit Taylor' fun for the young; 'Shutter' sputters out

If there is even a small doubt that Hollywood cares desperately about making movies for those on-the-cusp teenage boys, or that filmmakers have long ago decided that this is their demographic, then "Drillbit Taylor" should put that small remnant of doubt to rest. Lots and lots of movies are made for these kids. And for good reasons: they have disposable income, and if you make a film with the right stuff, well, they will come.

Proof? Catch "Drillbit." Okay, it's the Golden Arches of film. A teenage happy meal. But if you go, you will be taken into the early adolescent male universe (as remembered by the screenwriters). There is recognizable truth embedded in the narrative, and the tweens and teens will identify with it immediately.

In the case of "Drillbit," welcome to the world of two longtime best buds who stand on the threshold of high school and have spent the entire summer in rehearsal for the first day. They're newbies, have never had a girl friend, and are not, by any stretch, cool. Wade is tall, skinny and very geeky (Nate Hartley). Ryan is short, porky and also geeky (Troy Gentile). Emmit, small, gnome-like kid, appears a bit later and attaches himself to the two dorky guys like a barnacle. Together they face the first days with trepidation. And rightly so. The three are bully magnets. And sure enough two certifiables, in need of a semester in anger management, come along and begin tormenting the squirrelly trio without mercy. Which is how the group finds Drillbit Taylor, played by Owen Wilson. A fraud to be sure, he plays the boys in the same way he plays at being a retired Green Beret. The situations which follow are laughable, a stretch, full of narrative holes, but make the audience smile.

Of course, school bullying is a serious issue. And for some kids, truth be known, going to school every day can be one definition of hell: facing remorseless peers, boys and girls, who take sadistic pleasure in tormenting those who are different or weaker. It's no laughing matter, really. But screenwriters have always found humor in the darkest material.

Those same writers also know that the young gremlins in the movie seats are focused on their peers &

Wade, Ryan and Emmit &

who, to one degree or another, have familiar struggles. High school means dealing with insecurities and new identities. And sometimes it's adversarial. Of course hiring a Special Forces dude to crush the school nemesis requires a suspension of disbelief; but watching the bullies get their comeuppance is just way too good. Is "Drillbit Taylor" dumb in the extreme? Yep. For adults. But ask kids, and if they are inclined to give an honest answer they will likely admit that it is right where they live. Or have, if even for a week or a month.


"Shutter" could have been named shudder, had it been even remotely creepy. It isn't. A movie about a spirit appearing in photos should indeed have a very high creep factor. It should make the hair on the back of our necks stand up. The theater should feel cold. What "Shutter" turns out to be is a murder mystery. And on that level, it isn't too bad. Of course, to keep the story moving along, images have to appear in photos, no matter the location &

this movie is shot almost entirely in Tokyo, and in that way pays homage to what is known as J-horror (Japan horror), e.g., "The Ring."

The characters are Ben (Joshua Jackson) and Jane (Rachael Taylor), literally newlyweds. Meaning one hour after the ceremony they get on a plane and head east. Ben is a professional photographer and Jane a newly licensed teacher. She joins him on a fashion shoot in Tokyo and it's there that they begin to discover the ethereal images &

in photos and in windows and reflected in mirrors &

of a Japanese woman who Ben claims he's never seen before. And so begins a series of events that while mildly interesting doesn't pass the compelling test.

Jane begins to sense that there is more involved than she understands. And actually Taylor does a nice job portraying a lovely woman who suddenly realizes that Tokyo will not be an idyllic honeymoon, and all that is happening defies explanation. Well, almost. There is an explanation, but one that needs a long seance to sort out.

For a film to be about spirits, it has to have a high level of verisimilitude. There has to be a solid connection which asks the audience to invest some emotional energy in the outcome. "Ghost" would be a good example. "Shutter" misses on all counts. If, however, you are a fan of the genre and appreciate any attempt at the creep factor, well, add this one to your movie list.

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