Thursday, 10 November 2011

Film Review - Bad Teacher

This review can also be found at the Yorker (where it was uploaded ages ago, and I forgot to mirror it here...)

I never go to the movies alone. The idea of sitting in a theatre - especially a near-empty theatre - with no company and everyone else wondering why you've shown up alone is incredibly creepy and sends shivers down my spine. When I mentioned to my friends that I was going to see Bad Teacher, and if any of them wanted to join me, they all looked at the floor and made polite excuses. That should have been my warning to ABORT ABORT ABORT.

It turns out that going alone to a movie that has nothing of content aside from Cameron Diaz painfully posturing definitely makes you look creepy.

To fill you in on what little plot there is; Elizabeth (Cameron Diaz) has recently divorced from an apparently week-long marriage, when the other half realises she's only with him for the money. Without a sugar daddy she's forced to work at a junior high school, where the teachers are uncool but well-meaning, and the students are... not really focused on. At the same time, she decides the best method to get back on track is to shell out for a pair of $9000 breasts - and 'wacky hi-jinks' follow.

Unenthusiastic? I don't blame you. The idea of an anti-hero protagonist working as an incompetent teacher is something we've definitely seen before, and much of the movie reminded me of School of Rock in all the wrong ways. You could even describe Bad Teacher as “School of Rock, with Jack Black now sporting breasts, bleached hair and being dry-humped by Justin Timberlake”. Oh great, now I feel physically ill.

While I can put up with a movie that exists for the sake of peddling "T 'n' A", or a premise that rides on the concept of other successful (though not necessarily good) releases, what gets me is how the story almost wilfully goes nowhere. In addition to the Quest for Fake Mammaries, Elizabeth is lucky enough to get a subplot where she competes with another - more competent, but rather anal - member of staff for substitute teacher Scott (played by the aforesaid Justin Timberlake). Both plot threads resolve; but they happen so close to the end, you almost don't notice. Indeed, you could potentially remove the film's finale and watch the second act over again, and the character and plot progression would still make sense. But I don't recommend anyone tries that.

"But Nathan!", I hear you cry. "Easy-to-watch films with puerile humour can be fun to watch, especially with friends. You just have no sense of humour!" What a hurtful thing to say! Bad Teacher offers little in the way of legitimate humour, even when trying to be risqué. It readily throws boobs and weed and the F-word at you, but it doesn't actually try and do anything witty with them, and definitely feels like it's refraining from offending anyone. The film vaguely hints at Scott having a character flaw in his 'white privilege' making him unintentionally racist; but they bury that quickly, and don't bring it up again. A missed opportunity for humour at his expense, but maybe them not elaborating on it is a bullet dodged.

If you want an easy 'n' cheesy American comedy, then I recommend you Green Hornet. It has all the perverted jokes you could ever want, backed up by some good actors and action sequences. If you want grown women being mean to each other, look no further than Desperate Housewives. Not a movie, but that just means it lasts longer.

Bad Teacher is a film about wasting $9k on cosmetic surgery. And I just wasted £5.50 watching it.

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