BAD TEACHER: The Film Babble Blog Review

BAD TEACHER (Dir. Jake Kasdan, 2011)

If you’ve seen the trailer for this crude Cameron Diaz classroom comedy, you’ve already witnessed all the best lines and all the relevant plot-points. But since none of that stuff was that great to begin with, it’s quite a tiring task to make it through this 90 minute mess of a movie that has maybe 3-4 solid chuckles in it.

Daez plays the foul mouthed, hard drinking, pot smoking, gold digging, and completely immoral title character who gets dumped by her rich boyfriend (Nat Faxon) at the beginning of the movie. She has to return to the job she doesn’t give an “F” about, as the movie’s tagline goes, teaching at John Adams Middle School (JAMS).

Diaz gets through the day by putting on DVDs for her students of movies about teachers (STAND AND DELIVER, LEAN ON ME, DANGEROUS MINDS, etc.) while she drinks from mini liquor bottles or sleeps at her desk.

As the school’s gym teacher, a smirking Jason Segel clearly has the hots for Diaz, but she’s got her eyes on a Justin Timberlake as a nerdy substitute teacher. Lucy Punch plays a goofy goody two-shoes rival colleague of Diaz’s, who is also after Timberlake’s affections.

The sloppy narrative concerns Diaz trying to raise money for breast implants. That’s right, that’s the plot. She puts on a sexy car wash complete with a rock video (or beer commercial) style montage. She steals standardized test answers so her class can get the highest scores and she can receive a large cash reward. She, uh, does wacky corrupt stuff for her own selfish purposes – you got it, right?

Unfortunately, precious little of this is funny. Diaz doesn’t really bring anything but the bare minimum effort to her role, Timberlake is likable but not believable, and only Segel seems to have the right laid-back approach to this lazy lackluster material.

BAD TEACHER feels like a series of deleted scenes on a lame comedy’s DVD special features menu. The kind you watch and think ‘I can see why they cut that. Because it didn’t work.’

That pretty much sums it up – much like its superficial protagonist, BAD TEACHER rarely works.

More later…

THE SOCIAL NETWORK: The Film Babble Blog Review

THE SOCIAL NETWORK

(Dir. David Fincher, 2010)

This is the film that asks – is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg a computer nerd visionary or just an arrogant a–hole that ripped off his friends?

A bit of both appears to be the answer – but THE SOCIAL NETWORK, courtesy of Aaron Sorkn’s screenplay as realized by David Fincher, is far from a smear job on the world’s youngest billionaire.

Jesse Eisenberg, at his most coldly focused, plays Zuckerberg who we meet in a darkly lit Harvard college tavern in 2003 having an intense and intimidating conversation with his girlfriend (Rooney Mara).

It’s a back and forth that runs rings around your head, so much so that Mara takes the opportunity to break up with Eisenberg. He sulks back to his dorm room and blogs that she’s a bitch and that he needs a new project to get his mind off of her.

Drinking beer after beer, Eisenberg throws out errant ideas to his best friend (Andrew Garfield) before he settles on creating a site called “Facemash” – a Hot Or Not-like site featuring pictures he hacked from campus computer databases.

Eisenberg finds that in addition to making his fellow female students very angry, it gets him noticed.

He’s approached by a couple of preppy crew rowing twin brothers (Josh Pence and Arnie Hammer) and their business partner (Max Minghella ) who want him to help them build a new social networking site called HarvardConnection.

“I’m in.” says Eisenberg and the film cuts to his deposition 3 years later where under oath he states that he doesn’t recall saying that.

You see, he’s being sued by the brothers for intellectual property theft in Federal court at the same time he’s being sued by Garfield over ownership of Facebook.

We bounce between flashbacks and testimony exchanges that detail Eisenberg devising the famous Facebook format while dodging email requests from the brothers.

When the site goes public Eisenberg and Garfield attract many followers, groupies and the attention of Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake).

Timberlake seduces Eisenberg with his schmoozy charm, but not Garfield. Ties get even more tangled when Eisenberg rents a house in Silicon Valley which appears to be a nonstop party central despite the “wired in” employees working 24/7.

It’s easy to get caught up in the flow of this film. Sorkin’s dialogue is sharp, Fincher’s craft is on the scale of his best work (that includes FIGHT CLUB, SE7EN, and ZODIAC), and cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth’s swift camerawork frames it all with a minimum of flashy tricks.

The cast is pitch perfect. It’s Eisenberg’s best work to date, Garfield’s worrywart tone clashes correctly, and Timberlake predictably steals every scene he’s in.

Also Rashida Jones (“Parks And Recreation”), Bryan Barter, and the convincing brother duo of Pence/Hammer all chime in with sublime supporting roles.

There’s plenty on the internet about what’s accurate and what isn’t in this film, but the movie on its own is a storytelling gem.

You can see the point of view of the allegedly wronged parties and feel sympathy for the character of Zuckerberg even as he works overtime to hide his emotions.

Fincher, Sorkin and Co. obviously want us to see the irony in an anti-social guy who screws over the few friends he has in order to build one of the biggest and most profitable social internet websites in history.

A piece of supreme entertainment, THE SOCIAL NETWORK does indeed accomplish that task with relish. The only thing it’s missing is a big “Like” button for me to click at the end.

More later…