Release: Friday, June 24, 2011.
Bad Teacher may be more aptly titled ‘Bad Movie.’
Granted, this was my choice to go see the movie at 12:25 opening night, a showing which effectively puts the audience in a role similar to that of a test screening (ergo the film is already at a disadvantage – we have our own expectations, and no one else’s…). Even so, I feel that the movie fell well short of the excitement and potential gut-busting raunchiness generated in its previews, most notably a scene in which the teacher (Diaz) spikes a student in the crotch with a dodgeball…
Cameron Diaz stars along with Justin Timberlake, Lucy Punch and Jason Segel in a motion picture not made for those with a sensitive skin. The movie is rude, crude, and…hell, why not…lewd all at the same time. Foul language and inappropriate jokes are pervasive, and given the backdrop for the movie (a middle school somewhere in Illinois) the dialogue becomes all the more hilarious. Diaz’ character is a burned out schoolteacher who could care as much about her pupils’ performances as she could about her own fiance’s health (in case that reference is confusing, that’s not a whole lot). So long as she is rolling in her hubby’s big bucks, she is detached from everything else. Unfortunately for her, her fiance catches on and soon leaves her behind to deal with her own problems.
And thus, the movie. The ensuing hour and a half remains relatively awkward and joke-free, save for slightly less-than-arousing performances by Punch, Segel and Timberlake. (When did he start making film again, anyway??) Its not that I do not like any of these actors (OK, caught me there with JT……), its just that I agree with many of the reviewers I have come across already: they are given roles and lines that just don’t deliver like they should.
An example may be the stand-off between Elizabeth Halsey (Diaz) and Amy Squirrel (Punch), who constantly try to win over the new substitute in town, Scott Delacorte (Timberlake), through various tricks and back-stabbings including a switcharoo with the teachers’ desks, apples doused in poison ivy and leakage of classified information regarding the standardized test examination booklets. These moments are funny in and of themselves, but the acting on the part of Lucy Punch did not have me convinced at all that she knew what she was doing with the script. Or perhaps she was managing her part fine; maybe it was the script that failed.
Seeing that the movie was written by The Office writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, this possibility is somewhat disappointing. While I am a fan of The Office, I was not a fan of the one-liners in Bad Teacher. Some of them, as a good friend of mine put it, were so bad that you feel embarrassed to laugh at them. Half of the things that Timberlake said in the movie fit into this category. About a quarter of the lines belonging to Amy Squirrel were also this way, and the rest….well, I leave to bad acting. However, I cannot rule out the entirety of the cast with such a comment; indeed, The Office‘s Phyllis Smith makes herself known, as a quiet woman with lower self-esteem than Diaz’s character’s self-respect, who only hopes to be half as good a teacher as Ms Squirrel and perhaps a quarter of the flaunt as Ms Halsey.
And Jason Segel plays the gym instructor, Russell Gettis, a friendly, approachable man and arguably the only individual in the film with a head on his shoulders. Segel shines as a good ‘opposite’ to Diaz, though in the end it would be the two who would meet and make amends before the final school bell dismisses us from the theater.
When I first left the theater, I initially thought I was just being a harsh critic (as I feel I always am with movies), especially considering I was watching it at 12:25 the night of its release. “Okay, let’s just see how the movie goes down in the next couple of days,” I thought to myself later on. Well, more than a week has passed and its not looking great for Jake Kasdan and all else who were on board with this half-baked idea of a movie. As I said before, its good to gain perspective from others before deciding for yourself. Now I’m sure of my instincts. The movie was nowhere NEAR as good as the previews made it out to be.
Is Bad Teacher really another casualty of a trailer that reveals the only good parts of a movie? Or are we missing something here….?
Recommendation: See it if you’re a big fan of the writing The Office. Just don’t go in expecting a laugh-a-minute comedy.
Running Time: 92 mins.