Even the worst teacher I ever had, the mumbling drunk who always fell asleep at his desk, was better than Elizabeth Halsey, the outrageous middle-school instructor played by Cameron Diaz in the witless comedy “Bad Teacher.”
Halsey curses like a sailor, hurls ethnic insults, gets high at school and takes bribes to improve grades. She also naps while showing movies in class (“Stand and Deliver,” the story of an inspirational teacher, is her favorite soporific), throws rubber balls at students who give wrong answers and steals the proceeds from a car-wash fundraiser to pay for a boob job.
After getting dumped by her opera-loving boyfriend, Halsey goes hunting for a rich husband who can support her lavish spending habits. She rejects the advances of a sincere gym teacher (Jason Segel) to pursue a wealthy, dim-witted substitute (Justin Timberlake) who is more interested in bubbly colleague Amy (Lucy Punch).
The premise is fertile grounds for humor, but director Jake Kasdan and screenwriters Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg squander the opportunity with stale jokes and a haphazard story. Diaz’s skimpy outfits, which showcase her racehorse legs, are only a temporary distraction.
I was expecting a classroom version of “Bad Santa,” an uproarious sendup starring Billy Bob Thornton as a soused, foul-mouthed Saint Nick. “Bad Teacher” is just as crude, though not nearly as clever.
“Bad Teacher,” from Columbia Pictures, is playing across the U.S. Rating: *1/2
James Bond meets Dale Earnhardt and Mario Andretti in “Cars 2,” the sequel to the 2006 animated film about talking vehicles.
“Cars” was one of Pixar’s less distinguished efforts. “Cars 2” (both films were directed by John Lasseter) is an improvement, though still below the studio’s Olympian standards.
The animation is first-rate, the cars are cool and the celebrity voices led by Owen Wilson and Michael Caine are plentiful. Still, the film lacks the magical innocence of Pixar classics like “Toy Story,” “Wall-E” and “Up.”
Lightning McQueen (Wilson), the hotshot stock car introduced in the original, is challenged for world racing supremacy by Formula One champ Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro) in Japan, Italy, France and England.
The Grand Prix series is sponsored by former oil tycoon Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard) to promote his new alternative fuel. But two British spies, Finn McMissile (Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) suspect foul play and their investigation entangles McQueen’s unsuspecting best buddy Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), a simpleton tow truck with a Southern drawl.
The racing scenes are exhilarating and the animated versions of Tokyo, London and Paris look stunningly real. But I’m not sure the very young target audience will appreciate the Bond homage, the Nascar versus Formula One rivalry and other adult references.
“Cars 2,” from Walt Disney Pictures, is playing across the U.S. Rating: **1/2
“A Love Affair of Sorts” is billed as the first feature film shot entirely on a Flip camera. Since the camcorder is no longer being made, it’s also probably the last.
If “Love Affair” is any indication, that’s good news.
David Guy Levy’s insufferable film takes a microscopic look at the budding relationship between a schlubby painter (Levy) and a hot Hungarian nanny (Lili Bordan) who meet in a Los Angeles bookstore. The guy convinces the girl to record everything they do, no matter how trivial, on a digital camera.
The result is a home-made movie filled with jerky movements, mumbling dialogue and what may be the most chemistry-free love affair in cinematic history.
“A Love Affair of Sorts,” from Paladin, is playing in New York and Los Angeles: Rating: No stars
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)