The undeniably dim jokes fall flat

Bad Teacher

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            Welcome to the summer menu. Bad Teacher is a crass, unfunny movie. Note, please, that I didn't say it is gross, though it is that too; but gross is the common thread of today's sex comedies, and that isn't what separates it from the pack.
The reason this is a standalone loser is the smug delusion of the filmmakers that they are breaking new ground, that their efforts to shock us will be high comedy. I listened hard and in vain for outbursts of spontaneous laughter - collective or scattered - and heard almost none. The undeniably dim jokes - visual and verbal - fall flat and are soaked up not by plot but by dreary dialogue.
            The blame for all this must go to writers Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg for a dismal script. Given this material, it's hard to blame director Jake Kasdan for the result when there was nothing he could have done to save the movie from its writers. In an odd way, the last people to blame are the actors. Who can blame them for signing on to a buzz filled project with a proven cast and the promise of first run multiplex distribution?
            Consider, if you're willing, the plot. Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) has just retired after a year of teaching to pay the bills until she marries her Sugar Daddy. After the Daddy unloads her, she must return to her job and to the search for another man to support her. Bad premise. The teacher as harridan is not a promising subject in a culture that respects and trusts the teaching profession deeply.
            Halsey's colleague Amy Squirrel (?) (Lucy Punch), becomes her rival for Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), the new substitute teacher and heir to a wrist watch fortune. Punch is inexplicably quirky without any apparent reason for her strange attitudes or behavior. Justin Timberlake's clueless sub is merely mind-numbing. Aside from the penniless gym teacher (Jason Segel) who announces his intention to win the heart of the faculty Jezebel, none of the characters has an ounce of charm or appeal. Even these proven comic actors can't rescue this sinking ship.
            Cameron Diaz, she of the wonderfully rubbery face and big smile so suited to comedy, is on screen nearly full time with a monopoly on the bad dialogue. In full angry mode, she screams the f-word constantly - at colleagues, parents, students, and lovers. As we all know, repetition quickly robs that marvelous expression of its power which should be reserved for use as a verbal stun gun bullet to silence deserving targets.
            In a generous and merciful gift to the audience, the filmmakers, who probably knew what they had done, cut things short after a mere 92 minutes. Get ready for next week; the trailers have promised us Fright Night and Horrible Bosses. Why does Hollywood assume that everyone who goes to the movies in the summer is a blockhead?


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