Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bad Teacher (2011)

by DionysusPsyche

Ms. Halsey (portrayed by Cameron Diaz) plays not only an awful academia leader but a sad excuse for a human being in Bad Teacher. The mean girl that couldn't get a rich husband, because she's either not clever enough or more appropriately, too self-absorbed to notice. When Scott Delacorte, a fancy wristwatch wearing addition to the faculty arrives at the middle school, Halsey sees her meal ticket out.

“I ain't saying she's a gold digger...”
Oh wait, yes, I am. Remember that popular, snobby girl in school? Puts on airs, scowls, and shoots back snide remarks to other people who try to pretend that they live on the same planet as her? Yeah! You know the one I'm talking about. Now, thinking back on that girl...would you really want to see a movie about her? No, no, she's not being particularly amusing, she's just being mean. No, again, I'm not saying the comebacks are good, they're just ill-willed. Like she was in high school or junior high.

I'm not someone incapable of suspending my imagination, although there are some pretty far fetched things going on here, Big Bird. So, she's a teacher that was only interested in men who made money. Why? Because...she's got a bad salary? Because...she likes cars? Err, shoes? These are hooker stilettos--CRUEL shoes that Steve Martin was talking about! Ugly shoes that she wears throughout the movie that are actually more interesting and kind than she is. Wait, we never learn why she wants a man with money. She's not insecure or grew up with money or without or anything rational like that. We are basically told it's “because she's a superficial person” who is lazy. I repeat, we are TOLD that. The writers don't even take it upon themselves to let us figure it out.

One of these things is not like the others...
She's also surrounded by other teachers that are a nuisance to her. Scholarly, academic types that are beneath her. Who are concerned with the well being of students and making the future brighter. However, somehow through the lense of Ms. Halsey, we are led to believe that the wholesome teachers are just as “superficial” as she is. Except they can't be more superficial. She tells at least one of the teachers that she's getting a boob job. She lies about her past constantly. She steals. No one can compete with that. She only has one friend, because she is “cool.” The only reason that she speaks to this teacher is for a paid lunch.

Sure, the teachers aren't made out of complete angelic virtue, but just because these teachers don't let their kids watch movies in class and do drugs and say fuck all the time (another mystery of the film) doesn't mean that this unmotivated creton should get her way. I'm not squeemish about obscenities, but I found myself wondering constantly about the point of them along with my other questions.
Why DID she become a teacher? As Cameran Diaz snapped at kids and slept in class, I thought, “Well, maybe we'll find out eventually.” There are a lot of messages the filmmakers could've made in this movie. Messages like “teachers have really hard jobs and deserve more than they get,” or “bitchy women who treat people badly get karma's revenge kicking their ass.” The one depressing lesson I gained from this film was that most of the time, even mean people if they have an occasional stroke of genius when they come up from a bong hit or a brief moment of clarity in between hangovers, can still end up getting almost everything they want.
It's not a bad movie, and although I didn't have high expectations, I had certain thoughts on where the plot might go. However, the writers put out effort to create clues about potential plot developments or actions and then dropped them. Not even derailing with better ones. It's almost like they want the audience to appreciate the follow through when they did in fact take an idea all the way. I'm uncertain whether they wanted to use an element of surprise or if it's just shoddy filmmaking. Bad Teacher doesn't even take a darker turn like There Will Be Blood...but I'm not going to ruin THAT movie in a review about a movie that isn't half as good.

The good news is...
The acting overall is pretty great. Justin Timberlake proves convincing even as a nerd, despite his character only getting a few lines here and there. Jason Segel, albeit underused, is still amusing. Lucy Punch is phenomenally quirky per usual, and Phyllis Smith shows more versatility in five minutes than the handful of years she's spent on The Office. The movie does have some enjoyable, even funny moments, but they all involve any of the other actors I just mentioned in some combination. My favorite scene involves peer pressure.

When Ms. Halsey starts to seem like she might come around, we see a few more moves from her side of the board. We don't even learn the full truth about the situations she finds herself in. The ending is a little beyond belief, and even though it's Hollywood-esque, I don't even feel like the character undergoes significant enough change to warrant rewards. She doesn't even get off with a slap of the hand.

If you want a movie about a bad teacher who undergoes growth and spiritual development, rent School of Rock instead of getting a movie ticket to see a version of what could pass for its outtakes. Or for inspiring teachers, Dead Poets Society or Stand and Deliver. Enjoy horror films? Try The Faculty. Not to sound like a good teacher, but when it comes to watching Bad Teacher there are more productive uses of your time. Now do your homework.


  1. And there you go: accurately summing up what sounds like a crappy movie in a way more entertaining way than watching the movie itself. :P