“It’s no wonder the Japs are overtaking us!”
This is an overarching statement from the new film “Bad Teacher.” The film, directed by Jake Kasdan (Walk Hard, Orange County), revolves around the title character, teacher Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz), who traipses through life and school, skating by doing the bare minimum in both, as she hunts for a rich man to ‘take care of her’ via buying his-and-hers sports cars and providing sufficient funds for her to spend sixteen grand on shopping sprees… and to pay for her much desired boob-job. The hunt is obviously the endeavor about which she cares the most, and the one she puts most of her efforts toward—all her effort, actually.
While traipsing and hunting, she is usually either drunk or high- often both- or recovering from her drunken/high antics of the night before. She’s a manipulative man-eater who, in her spare time, drugs people, steals men and paperwork alike, spits out the cookies her students make her in front of their faces, embezzles, and harasses, among other things.
However, despite all this, and in spite of all logic, she has an odd charm, which is likely very much due to Ms. Diaz’s acting skills, and the movie somehow succeeds in creating its own brand of strange appeal. Throughout the majority of the school year, Elizabeth is attempting to save up for a new pair of breasts in order to attract even more men than she already does- richer men, she hopes- and trying to beguile one substitute teacher in particular once she finds out he comes from money, Mr. Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake). She focuses most of her attention on him, showing her class movies day after day (“they’re the new books,” she justifies to her dolphin-loving principal [John Michael Higgins]) while she drinks shots of Jim Beam under her desk and sleeps rather than teaching them anything. That is, until she finds out from a soft-spoken, malleable fellow teacher who’s her closest thing to a friend (Phyllis Smith) about the bonus which the teacher whose students get the highest scores on the state’s standardized test receives at the end of each school year. From there on out she’s all business in the classroom, and the gymnasium as the case may be, though her teaching style is far from conventional, and often involves pegging students in the face with dodgeballs.
In both her attempts to snag Delacorte and win the bonus, however, she finds competition in the slightly crazy, uber-“nice” teacher of the school, Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch), who will stop at nothing to see Elizabeth brought to ‘justice’ for her many- MANY- faults and kicked out of school. Yet as the film progresses, and Elizabeth uses her blunt candor and frank honesty to unintentionally help out both her students and fellow teachers, we find it easier and easier to root for her—despite all her aforementioned shortcomings. That and her slow turn from jezebel to genuine as she decides between pursuing the rich but daft Delacorte and the slightly dorky but genuine gym teacher with the snarky sense of humor more in line with her own (Jason Segel).
The film delights in poking fun at the kids and teachers from all cliques, and the intentional exaggeration of all their personalities is fun for the audience as well. As the Bad Teacher in question moves from student to student helping them out in her careless way, we soon also get the sense that she may be one of the only sane people in the school (though that could just be because it’s easy to look good when you’re surrounded by buffoons and superficial dweebs).
In the end—without giving too much away—it’s odd to think about what the teacher is really teaching us; the lesson it provides in relation to society may not be great, or even good, and much like the teacher herself, it’s certainly unconventional… it is indeed “no wonder the Japs are overtaking us” if our young people must rely on people like this to give them their life lessons, and most people certainly recall at least one teacher in their school career similar to one or another of the main characters in this story. Yet the plot itself is unfailingly entertaining if nothing else, and the film has a sharp, straightforward sense of humor (though its reliance on sexual and/or gross-out comedy earned the film a justifiable R-rating) which, in the end, is hard to resist, and the audience will likely come out feeling that the film was certainly worth the price of a ticket.
“Bad Teacher” is currently playing in most theaters, including those in:
Camp Hill: http://www.fandango.com/camp+hill_pa_movietimes?tspstate=0
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