Bad Teacher

a film by Jake Kasden

To start off on a Gene Shalit riff, Bad Teacher is Bad Movie. Seriously though, I do see where director Jake Kasden and screenwriters Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg (both creative forces behind The Office) are trying to go with their movie - to a place shared by the similarly named Bad Santa - but they never quite make it to their supposed destination. Bad Teacher ends up just being lame and mundane and quite pedestrian in its rather tame attempt at raunchy (or at least semi-raunchy) farce. Only a handful (a small handful) of laughs are to be found throughout the film's thankfully short running time (clocking in at a mere 92 minutes) and most of these, or perhaps all of these are courtesy of costars Jasan Segel, Lucy Punch and The Office's Phyllis Smith. But alas, even these albeit few and far between funny moments are not enough to salvage what is otherwise a sad, pathetic piece of moviemaking indeed.

Wiping away the hopefulness of such a darkly comic premise - a disgruntled, uncaring, drunken teacher on the prowl for a rich husband, not caring a wit for protocol, rules or her students - Kasden's film ends up less of a subversive comedy (like the aforementioned Bad Santa and more of a dreadfully lackluster bore. Star Cameron Diaz, a typically beautiful Hollywood star who is not afraid (at least every once and a while) to let her freak flag fly and look appropriately and quite purposefully ridiculous in the process (a la Lucille Ball), may have a been a relatively good choice to play such a part (though I personally would have loved to have seen either Kristen Wiig or Tina Fey, or even Anna Faris in the role) but she comes off looking inappropriately and quite unpurposefully ridiculous, not necessarily due to her acting ability (of which there is some hidden away in there somewhere - look at some of her more indie work and you will see it) but to the quite lackluster script she has to work with here. And she is not alone. Aforementioned costars Segel and Punch and Smith, and to a somewhat lesser degree Justin Timberlake, who has turned into a fine actor (both dramatic and comic) lo these past few years (check out The Social Network and his work on SNL for examples of each), hand in passable performances each, but still never enough to counteract what ails the film most - its lack of interesting dialogue and/or unique interactions between the characters.

Forget any attempted resemblance to a thing like Bad Santa (who really knows if such a mood was what Kasden was even aiming for in the first place) and just look at Bad Teacher as a separate entity, all on its own, and still the film falls desperately short of where it should be. Bland and ordinary, and worst of all, boring, Bad Teacher never dares to go as far as it needs to in order to succeed as such a great premise promises to do. A mediocre movie at the very best. Then again, I suppose we shouldn't act so surprised at the quite contemptible outcome of a movie directed by the man who made the dreadful Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Granted he was one of the guiding forces behind the wonderful, yet tragically short-lived series Freaks and Geeks (spawning stars James Franco, Seth Rogen and Bad Teacher's own Jason Segel) but so was Judd Apatow and he too, even with a few inexplicable successes, has done nothing but disappoint ever since. It's all such a shame. Such a shame. [07/04/11]