For over 50 years, Steve Crum has written reviews and features for newspapers, magazines and websites, and appeared on radio and TV shows regarding entertainment media. In addition to his years of service on the Governing Board of the Kansas City Film Critics Circle, his Crum on Film weekly column was awarded 1st Place in Kansas and Missouri newspapers via Kansas City Press Club/Heart of America journalism awards. Nearly 2,000 of his film reviews have been posted on Rotten Tomatoes.
Friday, June 24, 2011
'Bad Teacher' gets solid, shaking one's head, 'F'
By Steve Crum
Like Bad Santa, Bad Teacher is among the most aptly titled movies in film history. Unfortunately, the adjective “bad” has taken on urban slang that changes its meaning to “very good.” Believe me, stick with the Webster’s Dictionary definition. The “teacher” in Bad Teacher is definitely not admirable in the least, let alone very good. The referenced teacher, Miss Halsey, portrayed by the sultry Cameron Diaz, is rude, vulgar, self-centered, and morality-free. In her middle school classroom, she sleeps while showing videos to her students. She also taps into her teacher desk bottom drawer to smoke pot and swig booze whenever she can.
The simply written scenario, by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, follows gold digger Elizabeth Halsey, as she attempts to wrangle money out of anyone or anything. Early on, she is engaged to a wealthy guy, but their relationship abruptly ends when his mother discovers Elizabeth desires dollar signs over love hearts. That forces Elizabeth back to a second year of teaching at John Adams Middle School. Her novice year, we earlier observe, was pretty much a failure, yet she is oddly welcomed back like she was Teacher of the Year. For that matter, how in the world did this lady even get a teaching degree? Regarding basic tenants of instruction and administrative compliance, she is clueless. John Adams Middle is a fantasy unto itself, with incompetent Principal Wall Snur (John Michael Higgins), assisted by nary one assistant principal. There is not even a security guard on the premises. (A budgetary problem with movie production?) Also, a first or second year teacher would have frequent visits from the principal and district personnel to evaluate her classroom performance. That never occurs in this fairy tale.
The overall faculty further insults the education profession via their depiction as dorky dimwits in charge of comparatively bright, sophisticated students. At an Open House, parents are shown as concerned, upper middle class types, yet accepting of Halsey’s daily movie showings in her classroom. In fact, Halsey could care less about her professional demeanor until she hears that she could win $5,000 for having the best state test scores. Her lofty reason: so she can have breast enlargement to attract a wealthy guy. No surprise there is a graphic sequence of her choosing the best “boob job” at the doctor’s office. Folks, this is the script crux of Bad Teacher. Could writers Stupnitsky and Eisenberg really be junior high nerds themselves, writing this kind of repressed, sexual claptrap?
As Halsey behaves like she is a sleazy waitress at some dive cafeteria, her fellow staffers do not seem that concerned. They include Scott Delacorte (Justin TImberlake), the substitute teacher who is naive about Halsey’s lustful attraction; the lusting gym teacher, Russell Gettis (Jason Segel); and Lynn Davies, played by The Office’s Phyllis Smith. Lucy Punch plays the well named Amy Squirrel, a competitive fellow teacher who was last year’s winner of the state score prize money.
Directing like he has absorbed every episode of TV’s Reno-911 is Jake Kasdan (Freaks and Geeks TV series). For all the crotch shots alone, Kasdan just might graduate to grade 8.
There were those in the audience at Bad Teacher’s screening who consistently howled, nearly falling on the floor, at each utterance of the f-word, and at each toilet joke. Once again, the Judd Apatow-influenced school of witless comedy reinforces that we should bust a gut laughing at virtually the lowest of low humor. This is funny? No. This is 92 minutes of wasted acting talents given some of the most boorish set pieces imaginable.