Friday, June 24, 2011
Bad Teacher: 7/10
Let's hope they paid the actors more than the writers.....
24 June 2011
Bad Teacher is a great concept that resulted in a style of humor like most of the Adult Swim cartoons you see today: When the jokes hit they hit well, but when they miss, they miss quite badly. The cast was delightful, but could only go so far with the material. As a matter of fact, it was the cast that saved the movie from being a total disaster by providing their comedic chops, their charm, and their good comic timing that you don't see enough of nowadays. Despite all that however, Bad teacher is a shiny apple with a few rotten parts.
Elizabeth Hasley (Cameron Diaz) is a foul-mouthed, bitter, and quite nasty teacher that is keeping the job only to pay the bills after her rich fiancée dumps her. Facing debt, aging, and loneliness, Elizabeth starts setting her sights on a boob job and on a new (rich) teacher (Justin Timberlake), whom has also captured the attention of a manipulative rival (Lucy Punch). The script was helmed by two veteran writers of The Office (Gene Stupnitsky, Lee Eisenberg) as they use their non-television ratings boundaries to mix plenty of vulgar and raunchy humor with even some tidbits of cruel humor. Unfortunately, their lack of boundaries led to a mediocre script.
This film's biggest falters come in the form of the script. Despite the promise in the premise and the cast involved, the script was convoluted, and didn't have much structure until the second half. As a matter of fact, the film switches up the pace very unexpectedly when the next act approaches. Pretty much almost all the crude and vulgar humor failed to draw laughs, with one notable exception involving one of the odder "sex" scenes in recent memory. The movie was a great idea not exactly explored upon, and was full of smaller ideas that were not utilized. Many good smaller characters did not get enough time in the script; most notably the students, the gym teacher (Jason Segal) and the main character's roommate (Erik Stonestreet).
Despite the writing being a fickle mess, the cast was superb, from the small roles to the big ones. Cameron Diaz I can honestly say is one of the most underrated talents in Hollywood, because she rarely ever delivers a mediocre or weak performance. She has this aura, this energy that can save the worst of films (See: What Happens in Vegas) and it is no different here. Despite her smoking/drinking/vulgar/manipulative/cynical/cruel/superficial ways, we still secretly root for her to succeed in reaching her goal. Very few actresses can pull off this type of charm.
Lucy Punch, despite having a bit of questionable material, delivers as Diaz's rival. Jason Segal could have helped the movie a lot more if he was in it more often, as he delivered the laughs every time he was on-screen with his wit, sarcasm, and I-don't-care attitude. Television staples Phyllis Smith and Erik Stonestreet were hilarious in the far-too-few moments they were on-screen. The movie does indeed have its laughs, but the potential was so much greater considering all the talented actors involved.
Jake Kasdan as a director doesn't have much of a resume, but he does have the comedic chops and timing, and he proved this with the underrated Walk Hard. With Bad Teacher, he did not have as much good material to work with but could have still helped the movie if he had tightened the first third of the movie better. There was a lot more unnecessary fluff in the first half of the movie compared to the second half. Smaller plot lines were never resolved, certain jokes literally fell off without a punchline, and certain situations were brought up but never explored. Many concepts were also never explored: especially that of how shallow and shady we all become towards each other in the workforce.
Bottom Line: Bad Teacher was a great idea, poorly executed, but relentlessly saved by the energetic cast. This movie could have mixed the dark charm of Bad Santa with the subtle workforce ridiculousness humor of Office Space to become something very, very special. But neither style of humor was dwelled upon deep enough. The first half had its laughs, but was far too convoluted and was salvaged mainly because of the hilarity of Cameron Diaz. The movie definitely picks up later, but by then its too late, the potential was wasted. Either way, you will certainly laugh, you will remain entertained, but will also be bothered by what it could have been.