Bad Teacher

Watch out Billy Bob Thornton – Cameron Diaz is gunning for the unrepentant asshole niche you carved out. And she actually does a pretty damn good job of doing it.

Bad Teacher is the unofficial thematic sequel to Thornton’s 2003 black comedy Bad Santa. Both films have curse-spewing and alcohol-abusing protagonists who manage to finagle their way into positions of authority over the world’s most vulnerable (and easily manipulated) people – children.

Diaz plays Elizabeth Halsey, the titular “bad teacher” who is looking to land a rich husband after her fiancee wised up and unceremoniously dumped her. She reasons that she needs a bigger set of boobs to entice would-be Daddy Warbucks and the plot of the film revolves around her schemes to raise the money for the surgery (her meager teacher’s salary only covers her liquor store and drug dealer bills, one presumes). She eyes substitute teacher Scott Delacorte (an underused Justin Timberlake) as her new beau based on his claim to a family watch fortune, neglecting the earnest advances of a well-meaning (and genuine) gym teacher (Jason Segel, also underused).

Diaz does a great job of being the cynical underachiever who plays inspirational teacher movies like Stand and Deliver and Dangerous Minds for her students while she nurses a hangover from underneath her desk. She’s great, but the gag goes stale pretty fast. There’s only so much drunken Diaz that one can take. It would’ve been nice if the film added a few more scenes between her and the nerdy Delacorte (who essentially has no mind of his own and repeats the sentiments of the people around him) or Segel’s gym teacher, who is just as cynical as Diaz’s character (if a bit more friendly).

What I found the most interesting part about the film is that the audience comes to root for Diaz’s character by the end. Throughout the film the super-teacher Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) attempts to expose Halsey for the horrible teacher (and person) that she is but is met with bureaucratic ineptitude or annoyance at her overzealous accusations. And we come to root against Squirrel. Perhaps we recognize that the seventh grade really isn’t that important, or that maybe Halsey isn’t that bad of a person (she does give a kid her bra…which is a brief moment of sensitivity for the character, believe it or not). I just find it interesting that the audience comes to care for a drug-taking, shallow, and utterly unrepentant character. That’s the magic of film I guess.

I enjoyed seeing Bad Teacher, but after the film ended I realized I couldn’t remember most of the jokes. It’s funny at the time, but utterly forgettable by the time you hit the parking lot. It’s kinda like having a bad teacher in the eighth grade.

Grade: C+

 

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One Response to Bad Teacher

  1. Leon Smith says:

    The jokes- More like forgettable by the time the next scene begins. Fun movie none the less.

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