In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_6svpck54r9k0mz9xcfzswrxcin

Winter Sleep

The running time of his new picture Winter Sleep, three hours and change, suggests weight, but at it happens, this movie struck me as both…

Thumb_szfdh08j9t0rfs84cspctoeanse

Song of the Sea

Visually splendid, but generically flat-footed, Song of the Sea is an animated fantasy that comes close to greatness, but is rarely as clever as it…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Bad Teacher

Bad Teacher Movie Review
  |  

"Bad Teacher" immediately brings "Bad Santa" to mind and suffers by the comparison. Its bad person is neither bad enough or likable enough. The transgressions of Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) are more or less what you'd expect, but what's surprising is that she's so nasty and unpleasant. Billy Bob Thornton, as the Bad Santa, was more outrageously offensive and yet more redeemed by his desperation. He was bad for urgent reasons. Elizabeth seems bad merely as a greedy lifestyle choice.

As the film opens, Miss Halsey is engaged to a rich guy she leeches on but doesn't love. She's dumped and has to return to teaching, an occupation she had no talent for or interest in; she passes the time showing DVDs to her students while she naps, drinks and does drugs at her desk. This creates astonishment and indignation in the charmingly named Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch), whose classroom is right across the hall.

The school characters also include new teacher Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), amiable but juiceless; veteran teacher Ms. Pavicic (Jillian Armenante), a sweet dumpling; the hunky gym teacher Russell Gettis (Jason Segel), and the dolphin-obsessed Principal Wally Snur (John Michael Higgins).

Of these characters, the rival played by Lucy Punch is the most colorful, because she's the most driven and obsessed. The others seem curiously inconsequential, content to materialize in a scene, perform a necessary function and vaporize. There's no urgency, and that was the one quality "Bad Santa" dripped with.

None of the film's major characters is a student, which seems odd. Yes, there's a kid who writes bad poetry and has a crush on the class sexpot, but his desperation seems well within comic bounds. There are no vindictive students, none with aggressive behavior, no little "Omens" in training. The casting of the students seems lacking in imagination, but then what does the screenplay give them to do?

Cameron Diaz has proved that she is gifted with comedy. But here, her Elizabeth is a mean, antagonistic money grubber on autopilot. Where did she come from? Why did she get into teaching in the first place? Has she no heart? There are times in "Bad Santa" when we feel sorry for the poor SOB, but nothing in "Bad Teacher" inspires more than distaste for its lead character.

Other problems: There is no chemistry, or indeed even much mutual awareness between Diaz and Timberlake. You know those annual Bad Sex Awards for the worst sex scene in a movie? Their dry-humping scene deserves an award for the decade. The scene itself is pathetic. The shot it ends on — the wet spot on Timberlake's blue jeans — had the preview audience recoiling.

Whole chunks of the plot seem to have gone missing. Were drug charges ever filed against Miss Squirrel (in an attemped frame by Miss Halsey)? And how, oh, how, can we possibly understand the eventual development between Elizabeth and Russell the gym teacher? You know what that feels like? It feels like they called Diaz and Jason Segal in for one additional day of shooting to provide a preposterous happy ending. Jolly music keeps elbowing its way onto the soundtrack in an unconvincing attempt to cue us that we've seen a good comedy.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

The Ten Best Films of 2014

The ten best films of 2014, as chosen by the film critics of RogerEbert.com.

10 Underrated Female Performances of 2014

Ten underrated female performances from 2014 worthy of Oscar consideration.

Netflix’s “Marco Polo” Ends Creatively Disappointing Year For the Company

A review of Netflix's "Marco Polo" and commentary on how the company is treading water when they should be creatively...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus