Two Cranky Guys on ‘Bad Teacher’: No Class?
Bruce Fretts: School’s out for summer, but class is still in session for Bad Teacher, the new Cameron Diaz comedy. The question is, Bret: Does this movie make the grade?
Bret Watson: You get an A+ for puns, Mr. Fretts. I wanted to like this movie, and Diaz in particular, but she and the script made me yearn for recess.
Bruce: I’d give Bad Teacher an F. It couldn’t figure out what it wanted to be—a spoof of teacher movies like Dangerous Minds, an outrageous comedy like Bridesmaids or a rom-com with Diaz choosing between Justin Timberlake’s rich dolt and Jason Segel’s good-hearted gym teacher. It only runs 92 minutes, but I felt like I was back in school, watching the clock and praying for the bell to ring.
Bret: You’re going for extra credit with all these school phrases. The primary problem is the script: It’s as if the writers heard the title Bad Santa and said, “Hey—Bad Teacher! And after that, let’s do Bad Nurse! Then Bad Nun!” Inspirational figure + “bad” = comedy gold! But this is fool’s gold.
Bruce: And there’s no evolution to the character, unlike Billy Bob Thornton’s Bad Santa. Diaz is a horrible person through almost the entire movie, then has a change of heart at the end for no discernible reason. But she’s still allowed to get away with all the bad stuff she’s done, like stealing the answers to a state test. The screenwriters should be sent to detention for that.
Bret: I liked Diaz, but not her performance. She’s miscast. First, we’re supposed to believe that someone with her “rocking hot body,” as someone describes it in the movie, would have trouble snagging a financially well-off man, so that she must become a teacher and hit on a wimpy affluent colleague (Timberlake). Comedy is funnier when people are struggling upward instead of lowering themselves. The scene in which Diaz disrupts the school car wash by acting like a soapy sex goddess in short shorts would be funnier if a less effortlessly sexy actress was trying to pull it off. Imagine Tina Fey trying to be a vixen at a car wash—she’d get klutziness into it. Wannabes are funnier than already-ares.
Bruce: And we’re supposed to believe that she needs to raise money for breast implants so she can land a rich guy! Meanwhile, in real life, we know that she dated Timberlake for years and now she’s feeding popcorn to A-Rod.
Bret: Plus Diaz is never all that amusing as someone reveling in her bad attitude. I wanted to see what a true comic actress could do in that role, someone like Kristen Wiig or Amy Poehler. Diaz is surrounded by a strong cast of funny actors, and they steal almost every scene. I wanted to see a lot more of Phyllis Smith from The Office. And Thomas Lennon from Reno 911. And Jason Segel.
Bruce: You didn’t see enough of Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall? I kid—he’s great, and Timberlake is a talented comic actor, too, as proven by his Emmy-winning guest-hosting stint on SNL. But his character is completely inconsistent—first he seems to be in love with the annoyingly chipper teacher Amy Squirrel (played by the aptly named Lucy Punch, whom I always want to punch). Then he’s dry-humping Diaz in a hotel room. Whuck?
Bret: You just gave away a plot point. Which is fine, because the thought of Timberlake dry-humping Diaz might be enough to keep people away.
Bruce: How about this to keep people away: the sight of Timberlake with a semen stain on his jeans. He should’ve kept his d— in a box.
Bret: I didn’t have your problem with Punch. She plays an annoying character, and plays it well. She’s Crank bait, and you bit.
Bruce: I hated her even more in this movie than I did in Dinner for Schmucks. She is the antithesis of funny. There’s an art to playing annoying characters without crossing the line into becoming an actual irritant. Kristen Wiig does it all the time on SNL. You could learn a thing or two from her.
Bret: Why, does she also have abusive friends? I just want to stop the tears. Are you sure you weren’t traumatized by a bad teacher when you were a kid? It would explain so much.
Bruce: I did have a bad fifth-grade teacher, who was ironically named Mrs. Nyce. Who was your worst teacher?
Bret: I just want to get my hands around the neck of your writing teacher. As for Mrs. Nyce, I actually have a Mennonite aunt named Nyce who married a man named Good. Seriously. And they are missionaries. They feature in a script I’m working on, Bad Mennonites. Also, I actually had a teacher named Mr. Boring.
Bruce: Well, Bad Teacher was boring, which was a shock because it had one of the funniest trailers I’ve seen this year. This was truly a case of taking all the good jokes from the movie and putting them in the preview, because there was nothing else that made me laugh.
Bret: Wait: What was funny in the trailer? Oh, I guess you liked it when Segel, the gym teacher, asks Diaz to “hold his ball sack” and hands her a large sack of rubber balls.
Bruce: That did make me giggle, and I love Segel’s line about LeBron James: “That’s the only argument I need, Shawn!” His delivery is impeccable. And the way the trailer was edited, cutting away from Diaz just before she says she wants to sit on Justin Timberlake’s face, was much funnier than how it played out in the actual movie, when we actually hear her say “face,” and the joke lands with a thud.
Bret: It’s interesting how often the fast pace of a trailer sharpens up a movie’s plodding gags. Maybe we should turn over this blog to an editor and cut it down to, oh, five sentences? Don’t worry, they’ll all be YOUR sentences.
Bruce: Okay, I get the hint: Time to wrap it up. But let me slip in one more teacher pun.
Bret: I would let you, but I got a thing…with a guy…
Bruce: Bad Teacher proves once again that a dangerous mind is a terrible thing to waste.
Bret: And so is my time.
What grade would you give Bad Teacher? Post a comment, and Two Cranky Guys will respond!