“Bad Teacher” is not worth your
time. Now, the easy thing would be just
to leave it at that. It’s a comedy
and it isn’t funny. But the
self-respecting critic buried deep within demands a fuller explanation.
What makes it “Bad Teacher” so bad?
The main character, a gold-digging
Junior High teacher, is played by Cameron Diaz, who projects the odor of crass
desperation so convincingly that she’s neither cute nor endearing.
She seems genuinely disinterested in the students, or in developing
good relationships with her co-workers, or in becoming part of the school’s
extracurricular activities. She
doesn’t even gold-dig well. The first
of the movie shows an “intervention” by her fiancée and his mother,
convinced that she doesn’t even care about him enough to even know when his
birthday is, she just wants the money. He
tells her the engagement is off. So
she’s forced to return to the school the next year and explain to everybody
what happened. The explanation changes
every time she’s asked, but it always involves her fiancée doing something
horrible, like pedophilia.
Her idea of teaching is to set up movies
for her middle-school kids to watch while she surreptitiously drinks at her
desk. Another teacher tries to expose
her phoniness, but she fixes her: by
planting drugs in her desk and calling in the drug-sniffing dogs.
She comes on to a new substitute teacher (a bewildering milquetoast
performance from Justin Timberlake) because she thinks he might have money,
and entices him away from another teacher he was genuinely interested in, only
to participate in a very strange, fully-clothed, “dry” lovemaking session
on a school outing. (It’s supposed to
be burlesque and ironic, but comes off as gross and grotesque.)
Meanwhile, there’s a nice gym teacher
(Jason Segal?) who somehow sees something appealing in her, but she flatly
refuses his overtures because he’s, well, a middle school gym teacher.
At one point, she even asks what went wrong with his life that he wound
up there, a slap in the face to all dedicated teachers everywhere.
What little dialogue there is with other teachers reveals a nasty
condescension, and the kind of patronization that leaves just as bad a taste
as, well, the gratuitous language that is simply in bad taste.
Yes, there can be genuine naughty humor based on the shockingly and
incongruously crude, but this just feels like unfunny slumming.
She uses inappropriate curse/slang with
her students. She speaks to them
inappropriately about their lack of attractiveness, and even allows one of
them to see her smoke marijuana in her car in the school parking lot.
Her idea of helping a boy who’s struggling with the rejection of a
pretty girl is to hand him her bra so he can show it to the other boys and win
their admiration. When she finds out there’s a bonus involved for having the
students with the highest test scores, she pretends to be seducing the
district official with the official test, but actually just drugs him and uses
the purloined test to give her own students an unfair advantage.
She volunteers for the class car wash so she can show up in a
provocative outfit and prance around with a wet t-shirt.
And she steals a figurine from a student’s home where she’s invited
at Thanksgiving so she can give it to her principal to butter him up.
She’s just so despicable,
mean-spirited, self-centered, and foul-mouthed that we find it impossible to
like her, much less root for her. So at
the end she becomes a guidance counselor?
associated with this mess should distance themselves quickly, and the rest of
us hope that it just falls flat quietly.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Co-Pastor, United