Friday, January 20, 2012
Bad Teacher (2011)
There is a fair amount in Bad Teacher that could work in better hands. While the cast and crew may be convinced that Diaz is a comic genius, it certainly isn't on display here. Not only is she about eight years too old for the role of Elizabeth Halsey (this is not a knock on Miss Diaz's looks or fitness, but she is clearly too mature for the set-up her character is given), but she does not give her fellow actors much to work with. The sole exception seems to be her scenes with Segel, whose character is written to thrive in being ignored and disengaged.
The real problem with the movie is that it cannot find a way to make the story of an unlikeable woman's quest to land a man with money interesting. Never mind that the story is ridiculous, it isn't crafted in such a manner that one can understand how it should drive the story forward. There isn't even an air of absurdity to allow for increasingly inappropriateness because the film is just so determined to be grounded in relative plausibility. Further, there is also a problem with trying to work the children into the story when it is well established that Miss Halsey cannot be bothered to learn the names of her students.
It seems that a much better film would have largely dealt with the rest of the good-natured and well meaning staff of the school trying to make-up for the short comings of a bad teacher. It still could have had the Halsey character at the center, but it would have allowed the rest of the cast to have something to do that contributed to the story. Instead, director Jake Kasden treats his material here the way Miss Halsey approaches teaching: he'll just show a bunch of images and hope that it amounts to something and when its over, he gets enough money to move on to his next project. I miss when comedies were more about finding the humor or absurdity in situations than in being cold-hearted and cruel.
Now, I should be honest and admit that the only reason I got around to seeing this is because I became aware that Kathryn Newton (as Chase Rubin-Rossi) was in it; I miss her being one of the bright spots in the short-lived Gary Unmarried (2008-2010). I was kind of hoping that she – and the other child actors – would be given more to do. I guess I don't see the point of setting a story largely within a school and not knowing how to involve the children. Or even how to ignore them properly.