The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Friday, July 13, 2012

Bad Teacher

Being politically correct is a moving target. What offends some people will probably not offend others. That can make comedies bordering on being politically correct/incorrect very hit-or-miss. What's usually frowned upon? Well, that's a dumb lead-in....lots of things. But one you just don't seem to want to mess with is kids. Kids vs. kids is one thing, but adults making fun of kids? Ouch, and watch out. That's one of the things wrong with 2011's Bad Teacher.

Having taught for a year in middle school in suburban Chicago, Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) is bailing on the job and leaving teaching behind....until she gets dumped by her fiance. Coming back from summer break, Elizabeth heads back for another year of forming our nation's youth, or at least her equivalent. She doesn't care in the least, trying to come up with the $10,000 it would take to get breast implants and hook a new sugar daddy. As well, there's a new school teacher, Scott (Justin Timberlake), who she's got her eyes set on, but another teacher, far more chipper and happy, Amy (Lucy Punch), also has the hots for Scott.

I didn't go into this 2011 comedy with particularly high expectations but still managed to come away disappointed. I'm not easily offended so Elizabeth's complete disregard for......well, everything, didn't really bother me. She avoids helping co-workers as well as her students, showing her class a rotation of teaching movies (Stand and Deliver, School Ties, Dangerous Minds) rather than teaching anything. Then, she gets motivation in two ways, finding out that the teacher with the highest test average gets a bonus which she can apply to her implants. Yeah, not an interesting story. Diaz drilling her students with dodgeballs? A little offensive, but at least darkly funny too.

Re-reading that story description, I'd be okay with a story that wasn't involving or interesting if for nothing else it was funny. I mean truly funny. But from director Jake Kasdan, 'Teacher' forgot about the funny angle. It doesn't have to be laugh out loud hysterical every minute. It just has to have some jokes work some of the time, and unfortunately this isn't the case. Diaz is trying to go for the laughs, but the script and increasingly ridiculous story doesn't do her or her co-stars any favors. The story does get more ridiculous right to the very end, turning her into a possibly sympathetic(?) character while Punch's Amy Squirrel gets so stereotypically suspicious and evil it's hard to believe. I chuckled a couple times, but I don't remember any truly funny scenes that would make this memorable.

Starring in 'Teacher,' Diaz is the winner here. For one, she can do extremely dark humor and do it well. She plays it straight with her actions and offensive statements landing with a crash. Two, I don't know if it's her intention as a star/actress, but the whole 99-minute movie seems to scream 'Hey, everyone, I'm Cameron Diaz, and I still look great!' She looks great, so mission accomplished, Miss Diaz. Punch is annoying cliched, Timberlake truly awful in a horribly written part, and Jason Segel a wild card of sorts as Russell, the gym teacher who wants to go out with Elizabeth. He's not good and he's not bad, somewhere in between instead. The Office's Phyllis Smith is a bright spot as Miss Davies, a quiet, soft-spoken teacher who finds an unlikely friend in unfriendly Elizabeth, and the always solid John Michael Huggins has some fun as school principal fighting a losing battle.

Not much else to add. If you like Cameron Diaz as an actress or just think she's gorgeous, you'll no doubt get some enjoyment out of this one. Other than that? Give it a wide berth and steer clear.

Bad Teacher <---trailer (2011): * 1/2 /****

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