For a man who can deliver a line so well, Owen Wilson has been on the end of some very disappointing scripts.

'Starsky & Hutch': Inspired pairing on paper, some laughs but disappointing. Repeat for 'The Wedding Crashers' and 'You, Me and Dupree'. Kids' comedy 'Drillbit Taylor' continues this frustrating cycle, but it's a hard film not to like.

On their first day in high school portly aspiring rapper Ryan (Gentile) and 90-pound brainbox Wade (Hartley) manage to wear in identical shirts, befriend musical-loving hobbit Emmit (Dorfman) and become the new playthings of school bullies Filkins (Frost) and Ronnie (Peck). The second day couldn't be any worse, Ryan and Wade reckon. Think again. One humiliation follows another and no-one believes their story about the angelic Filkins.

With the next five years looking like a life sentence, desperate measures are called for: not changing school or running away but hiring a bodyguard through the Internet.

Having seen everyone from the overpriced to the deluded, enter Drillbit Taylor (Wilson): a former US soldier who claims he was thrown out of the service for "unauthorised heroism". He says he'll do the job for a few hundred, and the lads think they're on to an ass-kicking, corridor-humiliating winner. But is it all in Drillbit's head?

Co-written by 'Knocked Up' star Seth Rogen - who also penned 'Superbad' - and produced by 'Knocked Up' and 'Superbad' director Judd Apatow, 'Drillbit Taylor' shows that the duo aren't content with dominating the adult end of the laughs market, they want the kids' pocket money too. And there's enough in this 'Superbad Jr' knockabout to make sure that no-one feels too short-changed.

While Wilson is the name on the poster, it's the three youngsters who are the real stars here. Gentile, Hartley and Dorfman are so good in their respective roles that they could've carried the movie all by themselves. Each one of them delivers a gag with perfect timing and is so comfortable in their scenes with Wilson that you'd think they'd work together for years.

There are some very good gags too: the first day in the new school, Drillbit's training sessions and Wade and Ryan's attempts to toughen themselves up among them. If you were 13 you'd think this was one of the greatest stories ever told.

The disappointments here are that the film is rushed and the script uneven. The subplots involving Wade's love for a fellow student and Drillbit's romance with a frisky teacher (Mann) aren't handled properly and you'll feel that there was even more to these characters than what ended up onscreen.

This is especially true of the bully Filkins  - we never get to understand why he is the way he is and there was an opportunity to make more of him while also having people rolling in the aisles.

Despite those faults, this is a film you'd sit at home and watch again; those who haven't started shaving yet will be able to recite the whole thing by heart.

Harry Guerin