Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bad Teacher (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Bad Teacher

"Bad Teacher" The new so-called "black comedy" from Jake Kasdan owes a strong debt to Terry Zwigoff's "Bad Santa" (2003). Indeed this teacher spinoff film might never had been made in the first place, were it not for Billy Bob Thorton's surly irreverence and his free wheeling no-holds barred joy in insulting the sacredness of Christmas Tradition. "Bad Santa" curled across the screen like smoke from a Luciferic cigar. It was joyful in its offense. The film unspooled like a Robert Crumb cartoon in motion. It didn't fuss too much and had a certain quirky rhythm.

"Bad Teacher" by contrast, lacks flavor and seems oddly pre-packaged by punch lines and sight gags. The bits of alcohol, sex and bathroom humor are mildly funny the first time, sure, but once it leaves its chuckle, you're done and you forget all about it. Like Chinese food with MSG, one bite and you have had enough.

I thought I would have had more fun watching Cameron Diaz as the blatantly bad teacher, but somehow watching her strut her stuff while drinking and smoking from her desk just isn't playful and I know why: I can tell she is acting. A cardinal Sin in comedy. Diaz seems to merely go through the motions of being bad rather than being truly "BAD". Is a teacher drugging herself and drinking all they can come up with in this age of "Hangover" raunch fests? What about being truly offensive like Linda Blair in "The Exorcist" (a film that has some comical pokes despite its terror, which I still can't bear to watch for the fright it induces in me.) Little Linda had the knack and so does Billy Bob Thorton. But Cameron Diaz doesn't have it.

The camera stays on her so much that she goes stale and seems detached from the other characters. Even though they were together in real life, Diaz and Justin Timberlake, have all the crackle of two Saltines together.

The bright spots in this automatic chuckle machine of a film, thankfully, are Phyllis Smith (The Office) and Lucy Punch (You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger) both of their roles are believable and zany, a skill that Cameron Diaz never quite attains.

Yes, of course Ms. Halsey shows her soft side to the well meaning goof of a gym teacher, played well by Apatow veteran Jason Segel, but I still don't buy it. It just doesn't seem to matter. We have seen her do the same things in similar films.

I don't care how rudely Ms. Halsey acts or how much she drinks or smokes, I'm not convinced. Cameron Diaz isn't a "Bad Teacher" she's just an average actor.

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