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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Bad Teacher

By
John P. McCarthy
Source: Catholic News Service

In keeping with the trend of building film comedies around unsympathetic protagonists, "Bad Teacher" (Columbia) celebrates the immoral behavior of a loathsome middle-school educator.

What differentiates the low-grade movie—without at all rescuing it from the depths of coarseness—is that the title character is female, purposefully incompetent, and fully cognizant of being ethically bankrupt. In addition, only a token effort is made to redeem her. All in all, the tawdry exhibition fails to shock, subvert, or entertain.

At the outset, Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) eagerly gives up her teaching job at a Chicago-area public school to marry her wealthy fiance. But when he calls off the wedding (at the instigation of his mother, who realizes what Elizabeth is really after), she returns to the position and strategizes about making her way back to Easy Street.

Enter substitute teacher Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), heir to a watch company fortune. Elizabeth thinks she needs breast implants to land Scott and begins hatching larcenous schemes to raise money for the procedure. Meanwhile, a feud with by-the-book colleague Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) develops, and Elizabeth rejects the advances of low-salaried—if witty—gym teacher Russell Gettis (Jason Segel).

A full inventory of Elizabeth's transgressions against professional decorum and general decency would go on and on. She's foul-mouthed, slatternly, racist, conniving, lazy and cruel.

She self-medicates with alcohol and marijuana, often while on the job, and her idea of instructing her seventh-grade charges is to show them Hollywood films about the teaching profession. Designed to exploit Diaz's sex appeal, the role is the opposite of empowering.

Working from a script by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, director Jake Kasdan has fashioned a monotone picture in which every stab at humor derives from humiliation. And although the simulated, elongated sketch comedy lacks precision and is incapable of inciting outrage (let alone sullying the teaching profession), it does make the viewer feel rather dirty.

True, Elizabeth ultimately gives Russell a chance, yet the possibility she can be saved by the right guy is undercut by doubts regarding his character and motivation. So, ultimately, this dreadful teacher doesn't really grow or learn anything new—and neither does her audience.

The film contains several scenes depicting nonmarital sexual activity, much drug use and alcohol consumption, at least one instance of upper female nudity, frequent explicit sexual humor, some uses of profanity, pervasive rough, crude, and crass language and some scatological humor. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R - restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John P. McCarthy is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.





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Catherine of Siena: The value Catherine makes central in her short life and which sounds clearly and consistently through her experience is complete surrender to Christ. What is most impressive about her is that she learns to view her surrender to her Lord as a goal to be reached through time. 
<p>She was the 23rd child of Jacopo and Lapa Benincasa and grew up as an intelligent, cheerful and intensely religious person. Catherine disappointed her mother by cutting off her hair as a protest against being overly encouraged to improve her appearance in order to attract a husband. Her father ordered her to be left in peace, and she was given a room of her own for prayer and meditation. </p><p>She entered the Dominican Third Order at 18 and spent the next three years in seclusion, prayer and austerity. Gradually a group of followers gathered around her—men and women, priests and religious. An active public apostolate grew out of her contemplative life. Her letters, mostly for spiritual instruction and encouragement of her followers, began to take more and more note of public affairs. Opposition and slander resulted from her mixing fearlessly with the world and speaking with the candor and authority of one completely committed to Christ. She was cleared of all charges at the Dominican General Chapter of 1374. </p><p>Her public influence reached great heights because of her evident holiness, her membership in the Dominican Third Order, and the deep impression she made on the pope. She worked tirelessly for the crusade against the Turks and for peace between Florence and the pope </p><p>In 1378, the Great Schism began, splitting the allegiance of Christendom between two, then three, popes and putting even saints on opposing sides. Catherine spent the last two years of her life in Rome, in prayer and pleading on behalf of the cause of Urban VI and the unity of the Church. She offered herself as a victim for the Church in its agony. She died surrounded by her "children" and was canonized in 1461. </p><p>Catherine ranks high among the mystics and spiritual writers of the Church. In 1939, she and Francis of Assisi were declared co-patrons of Italy. Paul VI named her and Teresa of Avila doctors of the Church in 1970. Her spiritual testament is found in <i>The Dialogue</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The gates of hell cannot withstand the power of heaven. Gates of sin melt in the presence of saving grace; gates of death fall in the presence of eternal life; gates of falsehood collapse in the presence of living truth; gates of violence are flattened in the presence of divine love. These are the tools with which Christ has equipped his Church.

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