Friday, July 1, 2011
That is Bad Teacher's ace in the hole: its charm. Ironically enough, the film is all about immoral decisions and terrible life choices. Elizabeth Halsey (Diaz) pretends to teach elementary school while she dates a rich schmuck who basically acts as her sugar daddy. He soon wises up to her two-faced shallow lifestyle and dumps her, right after she quits her day job to begin her full-time career of living off someone else. After this, she comes back to the school to take her job back while she finds another wealthy man to fool.
As you would expect, she's a terrible teacher. She disrespects everyone from kids to parents to colleagues and hardly does any "work" at the school. She thinks the only way she'll find another man is by increasing her boob size (which was probably Diaz's only real physical fault), so she tries everything she can to raise the $9000+ to afford the procedure.
One thing that Bad Teacher definitely does right is the pacing and the continuous comedy. One element of many modern comedies that I truly dislike, as I mentioned in my Bridesmaids review, is when the plot turns severely melodramatic just to flesh itself and its characters out a bit. Some people might appreciate it!
But I don't.
If I'm going to see a movie called "Bad Teacher," I'm expecting it to be funny all throughout, and luckily that's exactly what I got. Diaz's character learns the error of her ways, she (somewhat) rectifies them, and everything works out in the end! Nothing sappy, no one cries, there's no slow piano music accompanying a montage of flashbacks of terrible things that have happened; it's all just fun and pretty campy.
But the comedy cuts short most of the time, considering a good chunk of your laughter will come from someone dropping the "F" word in front of middle school children. There's so much material and potential here, but it's all squandered for relatively cheap gags. The whole cast is fantastic, but the moments with Phyllis Smith (of "The Office" fame) and Eric Stonestreet (of "Modern Family" fame) are the best by far. The gimmick is in the title: Cameron Diaz is just a really really bad teacher, not just as profession, but by moral standards as well. She curses every other word, purposely pisses off anyone she can, smokes marijuana at leisure, and resorts to sex and drugs to get her way. It's hard to imagine how or why you would be rooting for her the whole time considering she has no redeeming qualities to begin with, but by the end she has a sudden turnaround.
Note the word "sudden." This is another flaw Bad Teacher faces; there's hardly any lead into Diaz's change of heart toward the end. Throughout 90% of the movie, she is detestable in almost every respect, and then around the end she helps a kid (whom she initially makes fun of) be "cool," albeit not by the most wholesome means but she means well. But why? There's no back story that tells how she was teased in school or anything; in fact, she alludes to how pretty and popular she was. She drugs and swindles the head of the statewide school test to get the answer sheet so her class can perform the best, she keeps trying to win over Timberlake's character solely for the money, keeps putting down Smith for being old and fat, keeps ruining children's hopes and dreams... you get the point. But suddenly she falls for the underdog and becomes a good person.
It's not too big a deal, but this complaint really lies in the shadow of the bigger complaint: Bad Teacher is formulaic and predictable. The audience can call out the ending from the get-go with simple movie-by-numbers logic, and by the halfway mark, jokes start to repeat themselves.
With these negatives in mind, I still have to give Bad Teacher some extra credit for not resorting to the sort of sappiness that plagues other films of its kind. Bad Teacher is funny. With some low expectations, it can actually be pretty good, but it's also forgettable and serves as a Summer comedy to pass the time with.
Bad Teacher gets an average C. A 2.5 GPA. A check minus.