Bad Teacher Reviewby Homer Yen (homeryen88 AT gmail DOT com)
July 5th, 2011
"Bad Teacher" - Classlessness Is in Session
by Homer Yen
When Michael Jackson sang the lyrics: "I'm bad, I'm bad, I'm really really bad", we knew that Michael Jackson was darn awesome at what he did. And, when Billy Bob Thornton starred as a reprehensible swindler in "Bad Santa", we knew that he was really, really loathsome. In "Bad Teacher", Cameron Diaz is not bad in such a way that she's awesome. She's not bad in such a way that there is satisfaction in her redemption. She's somewhere in between and comes across as just really, really, annoying.
That's not Diaz's fault, who brings her patented zest and occasional sunny smile to her character. The script just doesn't do enough to allow her to re-invent herself as an actor or as the character. She plays Elizabeth Halsey, an underachieving middle school teacher but an overachieving gold digger. She's a teacher because she likes the short hours, summers off, and no accountability. And, her ultimate goal is to marry rich. She has a shopping and drug and drinking habit. She'll provide sex without the love; looks without any of the dimension; a body without the soul. Price for your very own gold-digging trophy wife is $16,000 a month.
This makes the premise completely silly because how are you going to meet the rich man of your dreams at a Midwestern middle school where she is employed? We also know that birds of a feather flock together, so where are her other hottie friends? There's a whole entire comedic element that is untapped. In fact, she doesn't even seem to have any friends. So, there's no one to bounce her quirky ideas off of, which is another trove of comedy gone unrealized.
While it may come as a surprise that this teacher is so unpleasant and foul-mouthed, some of you have seen "Bridesmaid" and know that women are willing to express themselves in an R-rated fashion. But, the Arc of Redemption in Elizabeth's case isn't at all dramatic. Her immediate goal is to fund a breast augmentation procedure. That makes her behavior more shallow than desperate. Story writing 101 tells us that the deeper you fall, the greater the deliverance.
Anyway, she's on a quest to raise $10,000. And, again, there are a lot of funny opportunities missed, especially with all of the fundraising efforts that schools attempt. One thing this film does very well is to mix Diaz's excellent looks with a 7th-grade car wash fundraiser. But, they could've also had a brownie sale in which bits of marijuana are injected into the cake mix. Perhaps a hilarious scene could've arisen from a fundraiser involving door-to-door selling of cookies in which students get involved in a melee with Girl Scouts. If you're going to make an R-rated film, then why not be as offensive or as over-the-top as possible?
There are several supporting characters who play other teachers at the middle school. The most colorful is the eccentric but dedicated Amy Squirrel (Linda Punch). She is Elizabeth's professional and romantic nemesis and has a watchful eye on her hoping to catch her commit a violation. There could've been more spunk from the others but no such luck. This is a film where we needed Ken Jeong.
The ending also makes zero sense and it's as if the movie was completed, a test audience hated it, and then they randomly shot a final scene to inject a needed feel-good ending. "Bad Teacher" is directed without distinction, acted without relish, executed without much inspiration. As the movie poster advertises, this teacher may not give an "F", but this only-slightly funny film comes close to getting one.
S: 3 out of 3
L: 3 out of 3
V: 1 out of 1
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