Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Will Bad Teacher truly earn it's F?
Just in time for the end of the school year in many places,Bad Teacher will be making it's debut at theaters this upcoming weekend. Cameron Diaz stars as Elizabeth,the title educator who is the foul mouthed terror of her classroom as well as the teachers' lounge.
Motivated by the need to earn enough cash to buy a pair of breast implants in order to snag a marriage proposal from the newly hired rich substitute teacher on staff( played by Justin Timberlake,I kid you not),Elizabeth embarks on a campaign to actually have her students get better grades on the next state exam.
With the help of reluctant friend Lynn(Phyllis Davies)and reluctantly in love with Elizabeth gym teacher Russell(Jason Segel), our heroine makes quite an impact on the whole educational system,to say the least.
While this movie might get a decent financial haul at the box office,I have serious doubts regarding the silly factor on hand. Diaz can do this kind of thing in her sleep and judging by the trailer,she's pretty much sleepwalking thru this part(red band trailer ahead,you have been warned):
The full responsibility for delivering a good comedy here isn't all on Diaz's shoulders,however. The whole plot seems overly convoluted and splattered with cartoon level raunchiness. The offbeat teacher genre is not as easy as it looks and there are many other films that offer plenty of lesson plans in that arena.
The 1984 film Teachers is more of a dark comedy with touches of social criticism mixed into the stew. Nick Nolte stars as one of the disillusioned teachers who finds himself getting more involved in his work as a lawsuit from a former student throws the sad status quo into question.
Other cynical players on the field include a vice principal determined to keep his ship of fools afloat as much as possible,a mental patient who passes for a history teacher(and actually does a good job)and a school shrink who loses her mind over a copy machine dispute. Quite a bit of biting commentary on high school there:
A much more lighthearted approach came about in 1987 with Summer School,starring Mark Harmon as a carefree gym teacher stuck working with a bunch of misfit students during his beloved vacation time.
He does try to make the most of his situation by romancing another teacher of a summer school class(Kirstie Alley)and letting the kids have some fun,which includes a screening of Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
Some of the film's fans hold out hope for a sequel or a remake but it's probably best to leave well enough alone. Such authentically amiable goofiness can not be replicated in the Hollywood of today:
The 1990s were no stranger to this genre and in '94, they gave us Renaissance Man where down on his luck ad man Bill Rago(Danny DeVito)gets a temp job as an English teacher for a troop of troubled Army recruits.
Bill not only takes flack from his resentful students,which include Mark Wahlberg,Kadeem Hardison and Stacey Dash,but also from a harsh drill sergeant(Gregory Hines)who thinks this class is a waste of time.
Bill is a fish out of water in more ways than one,between never having taught before and the strict rules of the military. However,he does find a means of connecting with his soldier students by giving them a more accessible route to the joys of Shakespeare. A pretty decent movie here that deserves an A for effort:
The most recent addition to the wacky teacher roster was 2004's School of Rock,which was also one of the better Jack Black leading man roles on screen to boot.
Black's charm and physical gags served him well as his character cons his way into teaching a private school class,posing as his more respectable substitute teacher buddy.
His scheme to use the musical talents of the kids to form a new band in order to enter a major competition works both for and against him,as these students are savvy enough to take him on but willing to follow his lead on their own terms. One of the best elements of this movie is how smartly written and acted it is,something that others in this field should watch and take notes on:
My recommendation for a better movie about teachers who think outside the box this season would be Larry Crowne,which opens up in early July.
Granted,I haven't seen this film but the plot and characters sound solid. Tom Hanks stars(plus co-wrote and directed) this story about a longtime chain store employee who signs up for community college courses in order to delay being downsized from his job.
Julia Roberts plays Mercedes Tainot, his speech class teacher who is bored with her academic routine yet allows Larry to breath a little fresh air into her work and personal life. The age range may not be as young and hip as Bad Teacher is aiming for but I suspect that in this case,true entertainment value can come from maturity,not to mention laughs:
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