Monday, August 29, 2011

Bad Teacher

Bad Teacher; black comedy, USA, 2011; D: Jake Kasdan, S: Cameron Diaz, Lucy Punch, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel, Molly Shannon

Elizabeth only works as a teacher at a high school in order to have a laziness alibi for her sugar daddy, a rich guy. However, when he figures she just wants to marry him for the money, he breaks up with her, and thus she now has to work for a living as a teacher permanently. Elizabeth fancies the new substitute teacher Scott because she think he is wealthy, ignoring the nice gym teacher Russell. She cheats in order for her class to win the state test so that she can get a bonus and pay for her breast surgery. She also starts a feud with teacher Amy. In the end, she falls for Russell.

An inversion of "Stand and Deliver" (which is even shown in a clip during the class) and a slacker female version of "Great Teacher Onizuka", "Bad Teacher" is an uneven (anti-)school comedy, as heavy handed as the methods the heroine uses in her class, yet contains enough good jokes for a casual viewing experience. Exclusively thanks to the charisma by Cameron Diaz does this vehicle work because the screenplay by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg is clumsily structured, rushed and chaotic, resembling more a "Family Guy" episode that starts with one story and then wonders off into completely different territory than a coherent whole. Fast and pointless, "Bad Teacher" does have a good chuckle hidden here and there: for instance, when Justin Timberlake's character Scott is playing his self-styled song "Sympatico" on his guitar, and the joke where he and Elizabeth have sex with their clothes on (!) is so bizarre it's a must see. A small jewel here is the performance by Jason Segel as gym teacher Russell, who seemed to have smuggled somehow his charisma from the excellent comedy show "How I Met Your Mother" into the story occasionally, especially in the scene where he is arguing with a little boy over whether LeBron is better than Michael Jordan ("Call me when LeBron has six championships!" - "That's your only argument?" - "It's the *only* argument I need, Shawn!").


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