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…

YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER: The Film Babble Blog Review

YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER (Dir. Woody Allen, 2010)

Another year, another Woody Allen movie. Another one set in London, but hey! No Scarlett Johansson – so that’s saying something.

This ensemble comedy with Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, and Josh Brolin as the principles reminds me of Juliette Lewis in Allen’s 1992 dramedy HUSBANDS AND WIVES telling her professor (played by Allen) her impressions of his long gestating novel:

“You make suffering so funny. All the lost souls running around.”

There’s plenty of lost souls, but suffering though isn’t so funny here – it’s not even that affecting.

To break it down – we start with Gemma Jones as the estranged wife of Hopkins visiting a fortune teller (Pauline Collins) for advice about how to move on. She’s despondent and in need of drink which could define every character on display.

Jones’ daughter, Watts, is in a frustrating marriage to Brolin who is struggling with writing a new novel. Brolin pines for a woman (Frieda Pinto from “Slumdog Millionaire”) he sees through his flat’s adjacent window.

Watts, meanwhile pines for her new boss (Antonio Banderas) at the art gallery where she just got a new job as an assistant.

In one of the most clichéd premises of a mid life crises I’ve ever seen Hopkins introduces his new fiancée (Lucy Punch) to Watts and Brolin over dinner and the extremely unnecessary narrator (Zak Orth) tells us that he’s not telling the whole truth about her.

Punch is a ditzy call girl who Hopkins woos into matrimony with promises of minks and money you see and so, of course, it’s a doomed relationship.

Meanwhile Brolin, jealous of a friend’s manuscript, goes to the dark side after finding out that his friend is dead after an automobile accident. He steals the book and his publisher loves it, but the catch is that is that his friend isn’t dead – he’s in a coma and doctors say there’s a chance he could recover at any time.

Brolin courts Pinto causing her to call off her engagement while Watts finds out her boss is seeing somebody else on the side from his wife and Hopkins is cuck-holded by Punch who also runs up quite a tab on his dime.

Jones, with the help of Collins, seeks spiritual comfort as well as companionship, but might find both in the form of, no, not a tall dark stranger, a short fat one portrayed by Roger Ashton-Griffiths who owns an occult bookshop and pines for his deceased wife.

The same tired themes of spirituality verses common sense are trotted out – it’s a treatise on whatever works to get one through life – like say in Allen’s last film “Whatever Works” – and the emptiness that the characters try to overcome weighs down the film in a wretched way.

Still, Brolin’s dilemma is compelling stuff even if it doesn’t come to a satisfying resolution (or any resolution really).

YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER is a close to middling film with one juicy story thread (Brolin’s literary nightmare) amid warmed over Woody Allen thematic material that he has done to death.

Somebody not so fluent with the Woodman’s work may get more out of it, but would such a person really be interested in seeing it?

Brolin’s scenerio made me think that’s there’s still enough there for Allen to keep making movies, but maybe not so often as a film a year like his current record.

That’s not gonna happen however. Allen has another project already in the works (MIDNIGHT IN PARIS) so maybe I should be thankful at this late date that at least some shred of quality still remains.

More later…