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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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Anthony Grassi: Anthony’s father died when his son was only 10 years old, but the young lad inherited his father’s devotion to Our Lady of Loreto. As a schoolboy he frequented the local church of the Oratorian Fathers, joining the religious order when he was 17.
<p>Already a fine student, he soon gained a reputation in his religious community as a "walking dictionary" who quickly grasped Scripture and theology. For some time he was tormented by scruples, but they reportedly left him at the very hour he celebrated his first Mass. From that day, serenity penetrated his very being.
</p><p>In 1621, at age 29, Anthony was struck by lightning while praying in the church of the Holy House at Loreto. He was carried paralyzed from the church, expecting to die. When he recovered in a few days he realized that he had been cured of acute indigestion. His scorched clothes were donated to the Loreto church as an offering of thanks for his new gift of life.
</p><p>More important, Anthony now felt that his life belonged entirely to God. Each year thereafter he made a pilgrimage to Loreto to express his thanks.
</p><p>He also began hearing confessions, and came to be regarded as an outstanding confessor. Simple and direct, he listened carefully to penitents, said a few words and gave a penance and absolution, frequently drawing on his gift of reading consciences.
</p><p>In 1635 he was elected superior of the Fermo Oratory. He was so well regarded that he was reelected every three years until his death. He was a quiet person and a gentle superior who did not know how to be severe. At the same time he kept the Oratorian constitutions literally, encouraging the community to do likewise.
</p><p>He refused social or civic commitments and instead would go out day or night to visit the sick or dying or anyone else needing his services. As he grew older, he had a God-given awareness of the future, a gift which he frequently used to warn or to console.
</p><p>But age brought its challenges as well. He suffered the humility of having to give up his physical faculties one by one. First was his preaching, necessitated after he lost his teeth. Then he could no longer hear confessions. Finally, after a fall, he was confined to his room. The archbishop himself came each day to give him holy Communion. One of Anthony’s final acts was to reconcile two fiercely quarreling brothers.</p> American Catholic Blog God of love, as I come to the end of this Advent season, my heart is ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I join with Mary in saying, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Nothing is impossible with you, O God.

 
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