Bad Teacher Skips Class, Among Other Things
- Friday, June 24, 2011
DVD Release Date: October 18, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: June 24, 2011
Rating: R (for sexual content, nudity, strong language and drug use)
Run Time: 92 min.
Director: Jake Kasdan
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel, Lucy Punch, John Michael Higgins, Phyllis Smith, Thomas Lennon, Eric Stonestreet
Aptly titled, there’s nothing to learn or gain from Bad Teacher, with comedy being chief among what’s lacking. So is good taste—though that’s to be expected from the premise—and alas so is wit, style, or anyone that’s actually likeable.
What is the premise? Nothing original, especially if you’re familiar with Bad Santa, a movie that—while equally offensive in content—at least had some semblance of a moral center. This film, however, not only condones immoral behavior but actually rewards it.
The plot is basic: gold-digging English teacher Elizabeth (Cameron Diaz, in a truly grating performance) is a shallow bombshell who loathes her work, has contempt for the good people around her, and puts on a façade in her attempt to become some wealthy idiot’s trophy wife. Her one obstacle? Apparently her breasts aren’t big enough to seduce the kind of fool she’s hoping to dupe, setting her on a mission to raise money for implants. Her solution? Find ways to embezzle money from the school, parents, teachers and students until she reaches her goal, along with some theft and test-rigging for good measure.
Elizabeth wears sexy clothes, drinks and smokes (marijuana, too) on campus, and doesn’t hesitate to use any manner of profanity toward her students. She doesn’t even teach, instead slacking through each class period by playing various inspirational teacher movies (Lean on Me, Stand & Deliver, etc.).
The teachers and principal are generally oblivious to all this, mainly because they’re all played as naïve rubes that live in some antiquated bubble of innocence. They’re trusting to the point of stupidity and, consequently, are actually more insulting to real-life teachers than Elizabeth is. In short they’re uncool, a bunch of squares—not only from Elizabeth’s warped perspective, but even the filmmakers’ (who go so far as to turn the faculty’s highest achieving teacher into the villain).
Broadly played as an adult live-action cartoon, Bad Teacher is painfully desperate for laughs. Its primary modus operandi is shock value, packaged in the usual suspects of pervasive language, drugs and sex. Drop those elements into middle school and suddenly we have something “edgy,” the sad irony being of course that it’s extremely dull and steadily exasperating.
Elizabeth’s sins are legion, but the writers’ and director’s are even more so. The biggest offense of all: in both tone and narrative, the story structure is such that the filmmakers actually want her to pull the whole ruse off, one that employs conduct which isn’t just highly immoral but actually illegal. This leads to the biggest insult to us, the audience, as we begin to realize that the last thing we want—i.e. for her to succeed—is exactly where this movie is headed. We’re left actively rooting against what the director is actively striving for. It’s truly a head-scratcher, even for liberal Hollywood.
The cast (whether you recognize them all or not) boasts a deep bench of proven comics, all of which are subsequently wasted throughout, even demeaned. Each is a clueless caricature both by laziness and necessity; it’s the only way Elizabeth’s con can work. Normally, just a hint of common sense or sophistication would easily see through her shtick, but most everyone here buys it hook, line and sinker. Nobody is like anybody in the real world.
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