Bad Teacher (2011)
Those who can, act. And those who can’t? Apparently, they teach. I found this fact never more evident that when I watched Bad Teacher, the latest full-length flop from director Jake Kasdan (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story).
Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) is a terrible teacher, showing movies in class and never learning her classroom kids’ names. In Ohio, we’re trying to pass Issue 2 so we can more easily rid the system of teachers like this. The story puts a “bad” spin on movies such as Lean on Me and Stand and Deliver, and fails to make a quality movie out of it. The movie revolves around Miss Halsey’s two quests: for the new substitute teacher, Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake) and for new boobs. The relationship between Miss Halsey and Mr. Delacorte is extremely awkward–whether due to or despite the fact that Diaz and Timberlake had previously been an item off-screen, we’ll never know. Miss Halsey talks dirty, trying to get the young sub in bed on a field trip. She succeeds, sort of. Not only does she get the man, she steals him from Miss Squirrel (Lucy Punch), Miss Halsey’s across-the-hall-mate and colleague.
On the other side of the love square, gym teacher Mr. Gettis (Jason Segel) nonchalantly flirts with Miss Halsey, alluding to getting her high (But not with pot? Was that a pick-up line?). Despite the game of cat and mouse, Segel is one of the only up-sides (well, at least not a bad one) in the whole movie. Thomas Lennon, who plays education department worker Carl, a victim of Miss Halsey’s seduction (and roofies), provides another bright spot in the flick (I’ll resort to calling it a “flick” because “film” is way out of its league, and, frankly, so is “movie”). While he plays virtually the same goof-ball in everything, from Reno 911 to Balls of Fury (another terrible “flick”), it works for him most of the time.
While most teacher movies rely heavily on the students, Bad Teacher rarely shows them. Maybe you fell in love with Lou Diamond Phillips in Stand and Deliver or Miranda Cosgrove in School of Rock, but you won’t find these loveable adolescents here. They do try to spread the love with ethnic children (after all, it is Chicago) but even that fell short, as about 80% of the classroom was white (I’m not racist, only 45% of the city as a whole is white, so maybe it was just the “white” school. On a side, the school was named after John Adams, and the other, “worst” school is named after Malcolm X. Not my words, just the messenger). Most of the story revolves around Miss Halsey’s quest for new boobs (the only thing that keeps you guessing in the entire flick is “how big will they be?”) and often, she expresses her hatred for the young’uns.
I will admit, the flick does diverge greatly from the annoying teacher movies focusing on the white teacher coming to an inner-city school where the classes are diverse and they all make fun of her and don’t respect her and get down on themselves and then the teacher helps them with their personal problems and then all of a sudden the kids are all dancing or singing or winning spelling bees or getting great test grades or solving life problems and they love her and they all live happily ever after until the bell rings and then they go home for summer. Those movies annoy me.
But so does this one. Diaz is terrible, she uses inappropriate vulgarity to desperately plea for laughs, and her chemistry with her ex, Timberlake, is awful. Unbelievably awful. How can you be that awkward with someone you dated? Okay, I can understand that; but if you can’t act through it you don’t deserve to share a movie theater with Super 8 and Harry Potter. Segel and Lennon are okay, they raise the movie’s bearability (a word I premiered in a recent blog, check that one for the definition), but even they can’t drag this flick out of summer school hell. Any good teacher would give this flick a giant “F.”