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Not As Bad As Expected
Bad Teacher (DVD)
Member Name: missrarr
Bad Teacher (DVD)
Advantages: Actually funnier than expected
Disadvantages: Justin Timberlake
Film Only Review.
Both Mr Rarr and I needed to kick back last night, with both of us sharing a day off the next day, so when he got in from work we decided to stick on a film or two. We were both in the mood for something funny, so had a quick trawl through the offerings on his LoveFilm account. Frankly, the pickings were fairly slim in the comedy section, which is how we ended up watching Bad Teacher - sort of the best of a pretty bad bunch, if you like.
A 2011 release starring Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel and Justin Timberlake. Directed by Jake Kasdan.
Currently available new on DVD on Amazon for £4.88. If you have a LoveFilm account with the required membership level, this is on free-to-view.
Run-time: 94 minutes.
Straight off we see Elizabeth (Diaz) quitting her job as a teacher after just one year. Delightedly, she hops into her Mercedes, reverses out of the parking lot at high speed, and barrels off home, to be met by her meal ticket (er, sorry, I meant fiancée) and his mother, who has finally persuaded her moron of a son to ditch his leeching other half.
Before you know it she's back at the same school, hell-bent on finding a new bloke to live off, getting by doing the bare minimum, leaving her students largely to their own devices as she sleeps off another hangover, strutting around in epic heels and figure-hugging outfits and bright red lipstick. She's also being driven mad by her colleagues, led by the hopeless principal Wally Snur (John Michael Higgins), hopelessly shy and frumpy middle aged teacher Lynn (Phyllis Smith) and infuriatingly positive happy-clappy loon Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) - a completely committed and successful teacher who ends up becoming our anti-heroine's arch nemesis.
Enter Justin Timbersnake....Trouserlake...whatever we femmes are supposed to swooningly call him these days. He's in geek mode with specs and tweed firmly in place but still of course provides enough on the positive aesthetics front to become the new target of Elizabeth's "affection" - although how she expects a schoolteacher to fund her lifestyle of choice, I don't know, but let's gloss over that. I suppose when you're living in a thoroughly naff apartment with a fat bloke who probably can't recall his own name, anything will do.
Problem is, Scott is still getting over being dumped by his girlfriend a year previously, and shows Elizabeth a photo of her. Instantly, Elizabeth sees what she's doing wrong - clearly everything will be fixed with a spot of strategically placed plastic surgery, so clearly being of sound mind, she starts obsessively trying to raise the money for some "improvements" - a plan which puts her in direct competition with Amy both professionally and personally.
Meanwhile we meet gym teacher Russell, unfazed by Elizabeth's single-minded superficiality and determined that eventually he will persuade her to date him. Jason Segel is great in this role, bringing some real dry wit and sarcasm to the mix.
I actually enjoyed this more than I thought I would. I genuinely laughed out loud a few times, and as I mentioned above, Segel is one of those rare American comedy actors who can really do sarcasm.
Plotwise, this is not dissimilar to British C4 series Teachers - its basically a condensed, Americanised version. At one point Teachers even had a pretty blond character who tried to do the bare minimum and leach off the professional capabilities of her surrounding male colleagues. I actually wonder if the writers had seen the C4 show before penning this - as there, you see teachers being totally frank with their students, rocking up hungover at work, smoking pot in the gym room...you get the picture. And do you think teachers are really like this when they're looking after your precious little ones in real life? Probably, yes. They're only human. So as a premise for a film it is pretty amusing, particularly when you offset it with the doolally mega-committed likes of Amy and Scott who seem to genuinely exist on a planet all of their own.
Diaz really plays this up quite well. She really is funny in this role and it looks like she had a great time playing it. Lucy Punch is also good as the happy-clappy hippy teacher who ends up going up against Diaz - she's perfect for that sort of role.
It's a script that is devoid of proper character development on the part of Elizabeth; there aren't too many shocks or twists that deviate away from the "comedy by numbers" formula, and there's little logical reason why we should be rooting for this anti-hero figure while the character who actually is playing by the rules somehow becomes "the bad guy", but its not Shakespeare and it's a good laugh and all a bit of fun, so I'm not going to split hairs over plot devices (or lack thereof) and the finer aspects of human psychology! Perhaps it is more that we start to root for the straight-talking, no-nonsense Russell rather than anyone else?
Supporting cast members get a clap on the back - whilst they too are effectively playing their part in a film premise which goes "take a tried-and-tested formula and stick it in a new location and scenario and film it", they do it all like the seasoned professionals they are (plenty of familiar middle-range American actors here). The let down is Timberwhatever, who clearly thinks he's being very clever playing the hopeless geek but really just didn't bring any genuine comedy to the table for me.
With a 15 certificate this is probably appropriately rated, if you really did want to get into the sociological impacts of modern comedy then largely basing a plot on a woman convinced that she can live off a bloke as long as she gets plastic surgery probably isn't the most responsible of plots but then it is what it is - a blatant comedy.
Segel is the best part of it all - for all naturally Diaz takes up much of the air time, when he is involved the chemistry between them is great and his character really appealed for his frankness and wit. Whilst I've never been much of a fan of his usual type of film, he is in a different character here to his most famous one (in How I Met Your Mother) and he is great in it.
So overall, yes I enjoyed this film, and more so than I expected I would. I like my humour like I like my wine - dry! - and the fact that I laughed out loud at this on a few occasions surprised me. With the exception of the eternally one-dimensional boyband singer, the cast did their job well and the lead clearly was having a great time filming it, which definitely comes across. Alright, its formulaic and holds no surprises but it is amusing and if the thought of teachers having completely dysfunctional lives doesn't scare the living daylights out of the parents among you then it is a good way to chill out and have a laugh without too much over-the-top gross-out "boy humour" that for me is just too crass to be funny.
Summary: A surprisingly enjoyable way to waste some sofa time!