CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: BAD TEACHER (2011)
By L.L. Soares
(THE SCENE: The teacher’s lounge of a typical American middle school. A PRINCIPAL, a short, wiry man with glasses, is standing before the group of teachers, giving them a pep talk for the day to come. The teachers include an overweight woman (TEACHER 1), a muscular ex-football player (TEACHER 2) and a peppy young go-getter (TEACHER 3) who can’t sit still. There are other teachers, but the rest are a bunch of faceless idiots.)
PRINCIPAL: And so I zipped up my pants. And she said, “So when is Christmas, already?”
(The entire room explodes with laughter)
(L.L. SOARES enters the room, looking confused)
PRINCIPAL: May I help you, sir?
LS: Is this the teacher’s lounge? I was supposed to meet Michael Arruda here, to review a movie.
PRINCIPAL: Mr. Arruda has been sent to the high school across the street. He was needed there. So you’re the other substitute teacher, huh?
LS: Me? Naw, I ain’t no teacher. I’m just here to talk about the movie, BAD TEACHER, that’s all.
TEACHER 1: BAD TEACHER? That sounds horrible!
TEACHER 2: As if the teaching profession doesn’t have enough obstacles. Low pay, long hours, unruly kids. Now we have to deal with bad P.R. in the shape of a movie “comedy” making fun of us.
TEACHER 3: This is unacceptable.
LS: Calm down, people. It’s only a movie. And I didn’t make the damn thing. I’m just here to review it.
PRINCIPAL: Well, as I told you, Mr. Arruda has been sent off. You’ll have to do this one by yourself.
LS: Err, okay.
PRINCIPAL: Okay? What are you waiting for? We don’t have all day. We’ve got classes to teach. If you’re going to review this BAD TEACHER movie, you had best do it quickly.
(PRINCIPAL moves out of the way and ushers LS to the front of the room. The TEACHERS watch with rapt attention)
TEACHER 3: Well? Cat got your tongue?
LS: Cool your jets. I just never spoke in front of a roomful of teachers before, that’s all.
TEACHER 1: We’ll be grading you, you know.
TEACHER 2: So far, I’m not impressed. Stand up straight! Stop slouching.
LS: Yeah, yeah.
So BAD TEACHER stars Cameron Diaz as this mean lady who got into teaching because she wanted summers off and short hours and she wanted to put as little work into it as possible. She just took the job to kill time before her big wedding to a rich guy who will be her sugar daddy for the rest of her life.
TEACHER 1: What the heck kind of attitude is that? Teaching isn’t an easy profession!
TEACHER 2: “As little work as possible?” What’s that about? A teacher’s work is never done! I’m gonna beat you up after school!
TEACHER 3: I’m sorry, I just find this review deplorable. If I had to grade it right now, I’d give him an “F.”
LS: C’mon, you guys. Gimme a chance here! I just started talking.
PRINCIPAL: Now, now, people. Give the gentleman a chance here. Don’t be so quick to judge!
LS: Thank you.
PRINCIPAL: Although, I’m not very impressed, either. Get on with it.
LS: Yeah, sure. So her fiancée, Mr. Moneybags, decides to break it off before the ceremony. He has figured out she’s only in it for his moolah (with the help of his annoying mother), and he’s appalled that she really isn’t even interested in his constant talk of opera. She was just humoring him to get to his cash.
TEACHER 1: I love opera.
TEACHER 3: Me, too. Like WEST SIDE STORY and THE SOUND OF MUSIC.
TEACHER 1: No, that’s not opera. Those are musicals!
TEACHER 3: It’s not very nice to contradict a person.
PRINCIPAL: Ladies, ladies! We have a guest here.
LS: So, without a walking ATM to marry, poor Elizabeth Halsey (Diaz’s character) has to go back to teaching for real, to support herself. She’s horrified by this turn of events, but is hell-bent on finding another rich guy to hook on to. She decides the reason why she can’t keep a man is because she needs bigger boobs. So she looks into getting breast implants. But she can’t afford it, so she comes up with all kinds of schemes to get the money.
These include a car wash for the 7th graders, where she shows up in short-shorts and a skimpy top and “washes cars,” as the kids’ fathers look on, drooling.
TEACHER 1: That sounds like god-awful behavior.
TEACHER 3: Abominable!
TEACHER 2: I dunno, this movie suddenly sounds kind of good to me. (Flexes his muscles)
LS: When a new substitute teacher shows up, Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), it turns out he’s the heir to a fancy watch company, and he may just be the man of Elizabeth’s dreams.
PRINCIPAL: You know, you look a little like Justin Timberlake yourself, young man.
LS: Why thank you!
PRINCIPAL: If he lost all his hair and put on another 200 pounds.
TEACHER 1: And if his face got stuck in a lawn mower!
(The TEACHERS erupt with laughter)
LS: That’s not very nice.
PRINCIPAL: Life can’t always be a bowl of cherries, young man. You should have learned that as a youngster.
LS: Yeah, yeah. So bitchy Elizabeth Halsey suddenly becomes all nice and perky, trying to get herself a new sugar daddy. But Scott is very square, and annoyingly upbeat. They don’t have a lot in common, except he has access to a lot of money, and Elizabeth wants some.
There are some other teachers in Elizabeth’s orbit. One is Lynn Davies (Phyllis Smith, who some people will recognize as Phyllis from the NBC series, THE OFFICE), who is sad and overweight and who latches on to Elizabeth, trying to be her friend. Instead, Elizabeth bosses her around, telling her to do things like smoke pot and approach men in a bar. The thing is, Phyllis seems to like hanging around with Elizabeth.
TEACHER 1: She sounds like a lovely character.
LS: There’s also Russell Gettis (Jason Segel), who has the hots for Elizabeth, and they flirt, but she won’t give him a chance because he’s a struggling gym teacher who doesn’t have the big payday she’s looking for. Even though she won’t give him the time of day, he’s rather “earthy” and much more like her, personality-wise, than the other teachers.
TEACHER 2: Hey, I’m a gym teacher, too. Do you think Cameron Diaz would like me?
LS: I doubt it. There’s also Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch), the hyperactive teacher across the hall from Elizabeth, who starts out trying to be Elizabeth’s friend, but who turns into her arch-nemesis. Amy is the kind of teacher who likes to role-play and dress up in costumes and do “zany things” to keep the kids interested and learning. Where Amy is perky and upbeat, Elizabeth is lazy and mean. Amy starts to try to look into some of the more shady things Elizabeth has been up to, in an attempt to get her fired.
TEACHER 3: Amy Squirrel? What a funny name. But she sounds like a wonderful, motivated teacher!
LS: Yeah, yeah. So Elizabeth finds out that if her class gets the best test scores in the school on the upcoming state exams, she can win a bonus that will pay for her implants, and hopefully make Scott hers. So she suddenly stops showing movies every day and instead starts drilling her kids, getting them ready to win her that bonus. She even cooks up a scheme to steal the test answers from a goofy state official, Carl Halabi (the funny Thomas Lennon, who is probably best known as Lt. Dangle on the Comedy Central show RENO 911).
So does Elizabeth get her boobs and the dim bulb substitute teacher? Or does she have a change of heart and stop her gold-digging ways to try and find a real relationship, not based on the size of a man’s wallet?
Well, this is a big, Hollywood movie. So what do you think?
TEACHER 1: I don’t have a clue.
TEACHER 3: Me, neither. Although this movie suddenly sounds very romantic to me!
LS: I actually liked BAD TEACHER. It wasn’t great, but it was a nice enough diversion. I liked Cameron Diaz in this role, and I like it when she does comedy. Elizabeth Halsey is mean and superficial, and she’s the exact opposite of the super-sweet character Diaz played in one of her biggest movies, THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY (1998).
She’s still hot, and she’s funny playing a mean character. I just wish she had been even meaner and more, well, bad!
The rest of the cast is actually pretty good. I didn’t care for Justin Timberlake’s “Gee Gosh Golly” character that much, but he plays the role well enough. Phyllis Smith is very funny, and I always enjoy an appearance by Jason Segel. He’s one of the best things in the movie. And John Michael Higgins as Principal Snur is also very good. But, aside from Diaz, the best character here is Lucy Punch as Amy Squirrel. She’s a decent nemesis and brings a lot of energy to her performance. I thought she was pretty funny.
There’s also a subplot about one of the kids being shy and unpopular and not knowing how to talk to the girl he has a crush on. At one point Diaz’s character gives him some pointers. But for the most part, the kids aren’t all that interesting, except for Kaitlyn Dever as goody-two-shoes Sasha Abernathy (Dever has also been very good as the girl Loretta on the FX series, JUSTIFIED, this season).
The direction by Jake Kasdan is serviceable enough. This isn’t a great movie, but it’s okay. And the script by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg has its moments. But, for an R-rated comedy, BAD TEACHER seemed to be holding back, to me. This movie never really go far enough. Here, it seems like they’re playing it safe. Never going far enough to really shock anyone. And for that reason, it’s not as funny as it could have been. I give it two and a half knives. It’s a fun movie, and certainly not horrible. But it could have been so much funnier.
PRINCIPAL: So that’s it? That’s all you’ve got?
LS: Yeah, I guess I’m done.
TEACHER 1: What a horrible review. You’re an awful man!
TEACHER 2: Yeah, I don’t like him at all.
TEACHER 3: Yeah, let’s escort him off school property, already!
PRINCIPAL: Well, we gave you your chance, but it doesn’t seem like you’ve made any friends here. I think you should go.
LS: But I gave you an honest review. Isn’t that worth anything?
PRINCIPAL: Actually, no. It’s pretty worthless.
TEACHERS: OFF WITH HIS HEAD!
PRINCIPAL: They’re getting unruly. I really suggest you leave.
LS: Okay, okay. (leaves the room to hoots and boos)
PRINCIPAL: I thought he’d never leave.
TEACHER 1: Me, neither.
(They all huddle toward a closet, where the PRINCIPAL opens the door, to reveal MICHAEL ARRUDA, tied up to a chair and looking terrified)
PRINCIPAL: And now, staff, I will teach you how to properly discipline a bad student.
TEACHER 1 (licks her lips): Yes, please show us, Mr. Snoodle.
TEACHER 2: And don’t’ leave anything out. I’m taking notes.
(TEACHER 3 faints from the excitement)
© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares
L.L. Soares gives BAD TEACHER – 2 and a half knives!
Michael Arruda has mysteriously disappeared this week. If you find him, please let us know.