Art, Movies, Lit, Theater

‘Bad Teacher’ Just Not Very Good

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On Screen:
“Bad Teacher” Review

It would be extremely easy for me to fire off a cute little ‘”Bad Teacher’ = Bad Movie” review and just call it a day. But I won’t for a couple of reasons.

First of all, my editors wouldn’t be to happy about a four word review and secondly “Bad Teacher” doesn’t really classify as a full-on bad movie, it’s merely a not-very-good movie. I feel it’s important to save the distinction of “bad movie” for those truly awful crimes against humanity where the filmmakers should be forced to go around and personally apologize to everyone they come across (see “Red Riding Hood”).

The not-very-good “Bad Teacher” is a dark comedy where a shallow and unscrupulous middle school teacher repeatedly behaves in an extremely non-politically-correct manner. Elizabeth Hasley, as played by Cameron Diaz, is guilty of the following on-the-job offences that read like an MPAA rating: drinking, smoking, cursing, occasional drug use and flaunting her sexuality.
After being dumped by her fiancé for being a gold-digger, she returns to her classroom where she spends most of  her time sleeping off a hangover while showing inspirational-teacher movies like “Stand and Deliver” and “Dangerous Minds” to her students.

How someone as unmotivated and emotionally depraved as Elizabeth would have even been able to get a college degree yet alone a teaching certificate is astounding and unexplained, but it’s only a movie so I’ll move on.

Elizabeth decides that landing a rich husband is her only route to happiness (something we’re supposed to believe someone looking like Cameron Diaz would have trouble with) and the only way for her to achieve this goal is with a breast augmentation. The principle driving force of the plot becomes her quest to raise funds for a boob job.

Further complications develop with the arrival of Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake) a wealthy, trust-fund-toting substitute teacher (?!). He might as well have been playing a Sasquatch since those have actually been spotted in nature.
Anyway, Elizabeth and daffy, fellow teacher Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) become rivals for Scott’s affections which leads to a lot of plotting and scheming on both sides.

Since the plot is thin and preposterous, the success of “Bad Teacher” depends on the performances of the cast. This is where things get ugly.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOqa2291xLk[/youtube]

Diaz really isn’t equipped to carry a movie like this. Her greatest attributes in a comedy are being hot and playing off of other talented comedians. She can still nail the hot part of the equation, but she’s just not that funny on her own. Timberlake has certainly been better as his dorky take on Scott is like a one-note “Saturday Night Live” character, and Punch has some funny moments but never gets beyond her character’s neuroses.

The lone bright spot in “Bad Teacher,” aside from a couple of bit performances by John Michael Higgins and Eric Stonestreet of “Modern Family,” is Jason Segel. As P.E. teacher Russell Gettis, Segel gets the movie’s biggest laughs and Diaz clearly steps up her game in their scenes together. It’s a shame the movie wasn’t more about their relationship.

Since director Jake Kasdan tries to get most of the comedic mileage out of Diaz’s bad behavior, the movie comes up short since she’s really not all that bad (at least by R-rated comedy standards) and her character is more unlikeable than outrageously evil.
A lot like an extended stay in detention, “Bad Teacher” has its moments, but they are way too few and far between to not feel like punishment.

“Bad Teacher” is rated R for sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use.

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