by Tony Dayoub
Quick reviews of two movies I caught this past weekend after the jump.
Comedy is a matter of taste, and my taste runs decidedly toward the idiotic and lowbrow. The raunchy Bad Teacher hits just about the right spot. Cameron Diaz stars as the crude, golddigging Elizabeth Halsey, whose one year purgatory as a teacher is over as summer and an impending wedding to a vacuous rich boy approaches. "Get yourself hard," she announces as she walks into their home, "because I’m gonna suck your dick like I’m mad at it!" Unfortunately, her fiance's mother is waiting in the living room when Halsey walks in, there to assert that the wedding is off because she's on to the erstwhile teacher's spending habits.
Cut to next fall, when Halsey has reluctantly returned to her teaching position, setting her sights on Justin Timberlake's Scott Delacorte, the douchiest substitute teacher anyone's ever dreamt up. Halsey's plan? To save up for a breast enlargement so she can ensnare the rich boy and make a quick exit from the working world. Goody-two-shoes Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) is the competitive teacher across the hall (think of a vindictive Ned Flanders: "Shut the front door!"), continuously scheming to have Halsey thrown out for showing her class movies about inspirational teachers (Stand and Deliver, Lean on Me) instead of actually teaching.
Crass? Vulgar? Yes and yes. But Bad Teacher is also funny, as long as you're not the type of person easily offended by barbed or provocative humor. And though Halsey finds a modicum of redemption in the tough-love lessons she imparts to homely, nerdy students (and co-workers), Bad Teacher resists ever rehabilitating the self-absorbed egomaniac, always making sure the audience sees a selfish motivating factor hidden behind her apparent beneficence. Diaz's taste for salty humor is refreshing (see also The Sweetest Thing — not as funny, but it gives you a good idea) and a welcome bawdy change from the vanilla "chick flicks" which pass themselves off as comedies time and time again.
Speaking of vanilla, Pixar has just released Cars 2, an even blander follow-up to one of their most inferior, albeit kiddie-pleasing, previous efforts. In the intervening years, the first Cars has proven to be a major money-maker for the studio, selling licensed toys, clothes, etc. Its annoying supporting character, Tow Mater (played by the equally annoying Larry the Cable Guy), has graduated from Lightning McQueen's (Owen Wilson) second banana to star of a spate of animated shorts released directly to DVD. And it seems like Pixar head John Lasseter, co-directing this film, has learned all the wrong lessons from such occurrences.
Cars 2 grafts together the too-long racing sequences from the first movie to a plot in which Tow Mater is enlisted by super-spy Finn McMissile (Michael Caine), and his Bondian assistant Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer), to save the world from an evil plan which, truthfully, I forget. Lots of bells and whistles for the kids and for animation junkies (far-flung locales like Paris, London and Tokyo are captured expertly by the Pixar crew), but not even 3D was sufficient to inspire anything more than a yawn and an endless series of peeks at a watch from this viewer. Unlike other critics I've read, I don't begrudge Pixar for going strictly for the money on this project. I'm just giving you fair warning on what to expect.