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Cock and Bull(y) Story 

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This is going to sound harsh, because the movie is about a group of high-school freshmen who hire a bodyguard to protect them from bullies. But spend an hour with the leads, skinny Wade (Nate Hartley) and pudgy Ryan (Troy Gentile), and you just want to beat them up, too.

Their humiliations arrive at the hands of bully Filkins (Alex Frost) and his toady (Josh Peck) -- loathsome as well, though not necessarily the way they are intended, and not as much as the nerdy heroes. Oblivious that they've pushed their audience into severe character disgust, the filmmakers insert creepy little Emmit, played by creepy little David Dorfman, who may in fact be a work of CGI because his emaciated body doesn't look like it's developed a centimeter since he played a grade-schooler in "The Ring Two."

After suffering a couple of montages of torture, the trio decides to hire a bodyguard, ending up with the titular Drillbit (Owen Wilson). Drillbit claims to be ex-Special Forces, but he's really a bum who washes himself every morning by the Santa Monica pier and swipes leftovers on the promenade. He cons the kids into giving up their lunch money along with their mom and dad's electronics under the false pretense that he will help them; instead, he instructs them in a bunch of hooey the average preschooler would see through.

One can forgive a farce for its implausibilities as long as the laughs arrive, but in "Drillbit Taylor" they are missing in action, or AWOL, or whatever military analogy you want to bide the time thinking up while this tedious comedy goes through its lugubrious paces. Consider this: One of the funniest lines comes from the commendable Wilson, who does his best to salvage what he can. "A master class in judo, as in 'Ju-don't know who you messin' with, Holmes.'" Could this be the movie that made him suicidal?

"Drillbit" was written in part by Seth Rogen of "Knocked Up," with Judd Apatow's stamp of approval as producer. It offers characters and school-days ingredients familiar to anyone who's seen Rogen and Apatow's work. One has to wonder why these otherwise talented comedians would think such stale, obvious material cut the mustard. "The Simpsons" did the kids-hire-a-vet-to-defeat-bullies thing better in 20 minutes than "Drillbit" could do with 20 hours of its wimpy shtick. (PG-13) 102 min. S



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