Updated: 10/18/2011 (Released to DVD)
Originally Posted: 6/29/2011 (In Theaters)
When I first heard about a project floating around Hollywood titled “Bad Teacher”, I was very excited. I was fresh off seeing the brilliant “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans”, and I thought the concept offered enormous potential for a great movie.
About six months ago, I got a hold of the casting for this film, and I began to temper my enthusiasm. With major A-List talent, I doubted the necessary edge would be present. Two months ago, I started seeing trailers for “Bad Teacher” featuring a juvenile gym class dodgeball scene, and I grew even less excited. Last night, I finally went to the theater to catch the film, and my worst nightmares were realized. Somebody took a potentially fantastic concept, and took a shit on it.
“Bad Teacher”, starring Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel, opened in theaters this week nationwide. The concept is simple. Take a teacher, and make her a bad person. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure it out.
The film couldn’t be more timely. Teachers have been vilified by politicians, the media and the general public nationwide. There seems to be a backlash against the “cushy” teaching profession, with it’s summers off, great benefit packages and ludicrous tenure system where jobs are guaranteed.
“Bad Teacher” had a real opportunity to be both a laugh-out-loud hilarious parody and offer a social commentary on a hot-button issue. Through a piss-poor script, Hollywood cliches, and lowest common denominator humor, the film completely blunders this golden opportunity.
Cameron Diaz stars as Elizabeth Halsey, a first-year educator at a public middle school. As the film opens, she’s happy to announce her retirement from education after one year on the job. She’s due to marry a wealthy fiance, and doesn’t need this shitty job anymore. When her wedding falls apart before it happens, she’s left with no choice but to take back her position as public school teacher.
She’s really not very good at her job. She shows videos in class every day while she sleeps. She’s mean to her students and co-workers. She engages in recreational drugs. On paper, this seems like it could be funny, but something gets lost in translation during the transition from concept to execution.
She really wants breast implants, and needs money to pay for them. She stoops to cheating and stealing to get the cash to fund her operation. All is going well until another meddling teacher steps in to expose her lies.
It’s a particularly edgy role for Diaz, filled with profanity, sexual humor and a sexy car wash scene. I can’t fault her for the film’s failures, because she doesn’t seem to be the problem. All of the performances are relatively effective, with one major exception. Justin Timberlake follows up a great turn in “The Social Network” with possibly the worst performance of his career. He is TERRIBLE in this film. His portrayal of a hockey player in “The Love Guru” was more believable and entertaining. Yes, he’s that bad.
The problem with “Bad Teacher” is that it’s too tame. It’s too consumable. Though “Rated R”, it’s a pair of exposed breasts away from a PG-13 rating. There’s nothing challenging, offensive or edgy about the writing. It’s your typical formulaic Hollywood comedy set against an educational backdrop.
There are a few laughs to be had, but most are in the first hour. “Bad Teacher” limps home with a lame final act, completely with your bullshit happy Hollywood ending. It comes out of left field, and couldn’t be more pointless.
I might not be so aggravated had I not seen “Bad Lieutenant” (or “Bad Santa” for that matter). I’m pissed off because this should have been a great film, and it’s not. It’s not even close.
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