By Michael Koresky and Fernando F. Croce
Jake Kasdan’s scouring indictment of American education lays bare the gaping holes and blind spots of the standardized testing system that became the norm for public schools across the United States in the wake of No Child Left Behind. In it, Cameron Diaz stars as a klutzy but loveable seventh-grade instructor who, so fed up with the misguided and ineffective quick fixes of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, blazes a trail by opening her own charter school and, despite crippling self-doubt and a proclivity to fall face-down while trying to walk in stilettos, brings her students to a triumphant final stretch at the state tests. No, wait, my mistake—Bad Teacher is actually about a divorced gold-digger who soldiers through a year teaching junior high schoolers so she can raise money for a boob job. Its most vibrant performance is by an actor (Jason Segel) who seems to have shown up for a few days of work and improvised some lines that show nothing but contempt for the film around him. Its most impressive constant is how deplorably every soul in its cheery small town U.S.A. seems to act. Its funniest, most human, moment is when we hear a shy preteen unleash a cascade of poop he was holding in until an unwelcome female teacher has left the boys’ room.
Otherwise, it’s unclear from where Bad Teacher’s humor emanates. Neither aiming for the surreal, freeform hijinks of Stepbrothers nor the ingratiating character-based comedy of a film like Bridesmaids, Bad Teacher is somewhere in the confusing middle, a broad-side-of-the-barn collection of yuks that don’t add up. Continue reading.