Movies I Can't Help But Love -- BAD TEACHER

Ahhhhh, Bad Teacher.

Bad Teacher is not a great film, but it's got far too much good stuff in it to deny.

It's an absolute triumph in many ways, but very few critics understood it because they were never employees in a middle school. People, healthy people, unlike me, find few things more appalling then teachers being ridiculed for caring about their profession. But if you know that the same team behind this was the group that made Judd Apatow a star with the surprisingly deep and fascinating "Freaks and Geeks" and "Undeclared", it's telling.

Jake Kasden is the director. He did a few light comedies of intrinsic value since directing several episodes of both Geeks and Undeclared...such as Orange County, Jack Black's greatest moment, playing me when I was about 22.

Jason Segel, who played Nick Andapolis on Freaks and Geeks and Lizzy's insanely jealous boyfriend on Undeclared, as well as finally getting a consistent paying gig on CBS's "How I Met Your Mother", is the only character in this whole film who is handled in a halfway flattering way.

Cameron Diaz's Elizabeth Halsey (nice Paul McCartney "Ram" reference there guys, I got it) gives Billy Bob Thornton's Bad Santa a run for his money. Observe the brief moment when Halsey says, with an extreme close-up to a rival teacher, "I don't know what you heard...but I don't eat muff pie". She even sounded like Billy Bob Thornton.

John Michael Higgins, who was the second best thing in the sequel to the restaurant movie "Waiting" that Ryan Reynolds, Anna Faris and Dane Cook ditched, is just as good as a gullible, corny principal obsessed with dolphins. Making a cameo in this is the FIRST best part of that Waiting sequel...the girl who plays Naomi, but all she does is take money from Halsey at the boob job clinic. (Diaz is only working in order to get some fake boobs to land a new sugar daddy). Naomi in both Waiting films was stellar...yet when the Bad Teacher screenplay is at it's best, is when it's involving Higgins.

Observe...

Diaz walks into his office on a mission to manipulate him, so she immediately starts taking a liking to some of his dolphin stuff.

DIAZ: Is this new? I love it! You know...I always said that...dolphins are the humans of the sea.

HIGGINS (amazed): I have a bumper sticker that says that!

DIAZ: Come on.

HIGGINS: I'm not kidding! It's on my car!

See?

Phillis Smith from where I don't know...maybe "The Office"? You'll love her.

Justin Timberlake...delightfully wimpy as a new substitute teacher who Diaz's Halsey tries to get with because she notices his wrist-watch (an expensive one), and discovers that he's the freaking heir to the company that makes them.

But none compare to the very quintessential reason you have to rent this thing --

Lucy Punch.

In Dinner for Schmucks, she was that crazy blond who was stalking Paul Rudd, who lost him for a while, but was reunited thanks to a thoroughly clueless Steve Carrell before she messes up his car. There was also this Woody Allen movie I saw where she really looked good, playing a young lady he has an affair with. But here...she has been robbed of an Oscar. This absolute thespian is the female equivalent of Gary Oldman. She will no doubt one day eclipse Meryl Streep and that's freaking saying something.

Lucy Punch plays Amy Squirrell (yup), a teacher who is the very reason I've had to be transferred to four different f*cking schools during my time with steady employment. There's always somebody like this bitch in a grade school, and every once in a while, they have a nervous breakdown and thus go from being stupid to being downright homicidal. Nervous breakdowns are nothing to make fun of...unless you're a teacher aide who relates better to Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared then...Sarah Palin. Then you realize that many teachers are the disease and nervous breakdowns are the cure. Because of the Lucy Punch performance, the DVD is actually purchase-worthy.

In the film, Diaz has one simple goal...marry a rich man and quit teaching.

In the beginning, she has one and she's engaged to him. As soon as Diaz returns to her sugar daddy's house about three minutes into the film...it takes off and only comes down every once in a while. This scene where Diaz first learns that the engagement is off...is kick ass.

Both her man and Timberlake, rich as hell from dowries and family money, are each portrayed as insufferable wimpy corny dorks. Both of them. This clearly speaks to teacher assistants who know that the fine teacher down the hall just might be off-limits considering she knows you make a third of what she does.

Freaks and Geeks, like Bad Teacher, instead of the teacher assistant...really really look down on gym teachers, notorious as they are for exposing the uncoordinated in front of all their peers in an environment that they can't just avoid. It's like a bully that's actually state-sanctioned to guys like this. And so they tear the crap out of them.

That gym teacher in "Bad Teacher" is Jason Siegel. He won't ever stop pursuing Diaz, and he wins her over step by gradual step until the point where Diaz simply couldn't care less.Critics say it's not believable how it plays out. F*ck em. It's Freaks and Geeks believable, and that was pretty f*cking believable.

In the film and having more things to do then alot of the characters is Dave Gruber Allen who all us Freaks and Geeks fans remember as Mr. Rosso, the hippy guidance counselor. It's a very skillful addition, because the screenplay has Allen make semi-confusing jokes that John Michael Higgins, equally awkward, laughs at without knowing what the hell he just said.

There are a few songs we hear throughout the film, from the swell theme song, to two semi-decent ones composed by the teacher band (including Timberlake's addition which is pure schmaltz). The best one though was during a Paul-Thomas-Anderson-type sequence highlighted by a song on internet radio.

There is never a moment when either Timberlake or Punch say or do anything that doesn't make you laugh or cringe, and when they get together as a couple for a bit....oh...man...

PUNCH: It's so crazy because I love raisins and he hates raisins...

TIMBERLAKE: Ying and yang.

Freaking uggggggggggggggggggggggggh...

Critics also claim that the kids in the film were underused and underdeveloped. That's ANOTHER thing they got wrong. The ones who have character traits necessary for the story are just fine. And besides...this film is called Bad Teacher, not Bad Student. You want to make a thoroughly deplorable teacher...you have to make her infinitely more deplorable then the kids. You have to make the kids seem quiet, polite, innocent and normal. Even the bullies.

Halsey has it in for the girl at the front of the room, Sasha Abernathy, and some of the best lines in the film that Halsey delivers to anyone are delivered to Sasha. Sasha is a goody-two-shoes, a kiss-ass, a grade-grubber, and wants to be president. Meanwhile the other kid Halsey interacts with...who she actually does WONDERS for and saves at the end...is an ultra-sensitive poetic porker who wears the same clothes EVERY SINGLE DAY.

In one deleted scene, Halsey encounters a girl crying in the hall. She's crying about her boyfriend but she won't say anymore, and wants you all to leave her alone. It's then that Halsey, in full Billy Bob Thornton mode, says "You know...if you don't want to suck a dick, you don't have to suck a dick." And this completely wipes away the tears and causes a big big smile on this girl's face.

See? It's that kind of stuff that Bad Teacher slowly starts to have going for it. The filmmakers spend the first hour and a half making the case that Halsey is sick to the core...then they show how the school system lets kids down for favoring educators like Amy Squirrell (who by the way never learned nor figured out what "muff pie" was).

Rent the damn movie already. Get it from netflix. Or at least watch Lucy Punch's highlights on youtube.





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Comments 2 comments

tschaunerb profile image

tschaunerb 4 years ago from Medicine Hat

I dunno, I liked Freaks and Geeks and Undelcared, but this movie irritated me. I don't like Cameron Diaz tho so maybe that was my first major problem with it.


pgorner 4 years ago from Tijuana, Mexico Author

I have a terribly pathetic soft spot for pretty much anything related to Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared. I wish they'd stop making movies and just go back to the basics. I trace these to way back during the bitter time when the F&G creators first realized they were going to get cancelled in 2000. From that point on, though quality does appear in spades, they've been tumbling pretty hard. 40 Year Old Virgin for instance = decent movie...total and complete shit compared to what they already proved they could do.

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