Sunday, June 26, 2011

Movie with Abe: Bad Teacher

Bad Teacher
Directed by Jake Kasdan
Released June 24, 2011

There are some films that market themselves easily. “She doesn’t give an ‘F’” is a superb tagline that goes just right with the poster image of Cameron Diaz sitting huddled behind her desk with an apple on top of it marked “Eat Me!” What that conjures up is a picture of a vulgar comedy in the style of Judd Apatow films featuring an instructor with truly unconventional and suspect methods who somehow still manages to get her students to learn.

Instead, “Bad Teacher” presents Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz), a lazy, shopping-addicted woman with no interest in putting any effort at all into her job. It’s entirely impossible to believe that anyone would entrust young minds to her bad influence, and that’s the point from which the film starts off, decidedly creating an exaggeration of a realistic poor teacher. The film takes its cues from that beginning, crafting its other characters with just as much excess. While that does lead to the occasional chuckle, this is the kind of film that could have been more subtly creative and, as a result, much more effective.

Hiding behind the façade of this R-rated comedy is a perfectly simplistic, extremely generic story of a pretty girl vying for a cute guy. The twists and turns are completely obvious and highly unsurprising, and the gross-out humor, what little there is of it, seems deliberately inserted in unnecessary spots just for shock effect. Its usage makes for considerably inconsistent characters, particularly nerdy nice guy Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake). Other characters, such as teachers Russell Gettis (Jason Segel) and Lynn Davies (Phyllis Smith), serve little purpose aside from popping up conveniently to utter forced commentary on what’s happening at that point in the story.

Diaz’s part doesn’t exactly demand much of her, and she puts minimal effort into playing the cosmetically-obsessed, children-hating Halsey. Diaz, like her character, seems lazy, doing nothing to enhance an otherwise lackluster and unoriginal film (the script performs similarly). Credit is due most to Lucy Punch, who plays Halsey’s number one rival Amy Squirrel, and John Michael Higgins, who portrays Principal Wally Snur, who commit entirely to their zany characters. Sadly, the same can’t be said for the rest of the ensemble or the film itself. Like director Jake Kasdan’s last film, “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” this is a film that could have been much, much better and instead falls flat.


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