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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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Alphonsus Liguori: 
		<p>Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.</p>
		<p>In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.</p>
		<p>At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but he soon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups. </p>
		<p>He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions. </p>
		<p>He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese. </p>
		<p>His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united. </p>
		<p>At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His <i>Glories of Mary</i> is one of the great works on that subject, and his book <i>Visits to the Blessed Sacrament</i> went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.</p> American Catholic Blog Those who want to participate more fully in salvation history are comforted by the fact that Jesus wants to walk with us in our suffering and wants to break bread to give us strength on our way.

 
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