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Serving as another raunchy, hard-R comedy, the type that seems to be sprouting everywhere lately, is 'Bad Teacher,' a movie where the title pretty much spills the beans before we even read a synopsis. Screenwriters Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, who have worked together on several episodes of the much funnier 'The Office,' would like audiences to imagine a world where an educator gets away with embezzlement, cheating, inappropriate language and letting kids watch movies with other teachers in them. It's basically their attempt at being edgy and trying to push the limits of acceptability, but the result is an only mildly entertaining and occasionally funny comedy that could actually be edgier and more vulgar.
The comparison to the far-blacker comedy favorite 'Bad Santa' is inevitable and an obvious one to make given the very similar ring the movie's title has to it. Essentially channeling the spirit of Billy Bob Thornton's Willie Stokes is Cameron Diaz as a foul-mouthed, uppity alcoholic middle school teacher. In real life, I'm sure Ms. Diaz can swear like a pirate and be as lewd as the next person, but here, she just comes across as trying too hard. In most every scene, she seems like an actress struggling to fill her britches, spewing out lines more for shock value than as part of the character's rude personality traits. We never once forget we're watching Cameron Diaz, the movie star, trying to be coarse and smutty.
The only reason she even went into education, she explains to her homely co-worker (Lynn Davies of 'The Office' fame) who follows Diaz around like a lost puppy, is the short hours and thee-month vacation. For the purposes of this plot, she's saving all her pennies in what should be a swear jar to buy herself a breast enhancement, thinking that will secure her a sugar daddy and be set for the rest of her life. She'll go to pretty much any length in order to raise the money as quickly as possible, including some seriously morally-devoid acts which, even more worryingly, the filmmakers shrug off later on as no big deal. As a matter of fact, everything works out in the end far too conveniently and ultimately feels ickier than watching Diaz in a desperate attempt at being funny.
Justin Timberlake costars in a role that has him acting the complete fool and he turns out to be the most memorable of the entire bunch. As the wealthy substitute teacher with bizarre, quirky side activities, he's the man Diaz sets her sights on in pursuit of financial freedom. Going completely against type — and pretty much every expectation based on his fame — Timberlake is convincing and probably the funniest thing of the whole movie. Coming a close second is the woman who actually catches his attention and becomes Diaz's adversary, Amy Squirrel (played terrifically obnoxiously by Lucy Punch). Meanwhile, Jason Segel as Diaz's simpatico gym teacher waits on the side lines until he's suddenly called in as the convenient love-interest.
'Bad Teacher' isn't all bad, however, with several hearty laughs spread throughout, and it's entertaining for the most part. In the end, this comedy from two of the writers of the 'The Office' barely squeaks by. The rest of the cast pull their individual weights to make it an amusing watch. Diaz, unfortunately, is the bad student riding on their coattails, hoping no one will notice. But we did, and it's C-level work from a purportedly A-list actress.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings 'Bad Teacher' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a blue eco-vortex keepcase. Owners are given a choice between the R-rated or the Unrated version of the movie when highlighting and pressing "Play." It's a five minute difference where the latter shows a couple more scenes of dialogue and visual gags that try to make it a bit raunchier. Also included is a code for Sony rewards and buyers can choose between the single disc or the combo pack for a few bucks more. At startup, the disc commences with the usual series of skippable trailers for upcoming BD releases from Sony. When done, viewers are greeted by the standard menu selection with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
'Bad Teacher' debuts on Blu-ray with a strong and squeaky-clean AVC-encoded transfer, full of color and sparkle. The palette displays lots of vibrant, richly-saturated primaries while secondary hues are equally bold and full of life, adding a great deal of warmth to the comedy. The 1.85:1-framed picture shows excellent definition in the finer lines and background info with clear distinction of the tiniest objects. Facial complexions appear healthy and natural with good visible texture. Contrast wavers somewhat — sometimes noticeably between scenes — from mostly spot-on to fairly dull, which can ruin resolution in a couple spots. Black levels are mostly accurate and deep, but there are moments where they look muddy and dingy, obscuring some shadow details with one instance of crush during the fake-Abraham Lincoln's speech on the field trip. But aside from that, the transfer is in excellent shape and looks mostly great in high-def.
Like the video, the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack delivers a great and highly enjoyable presentation. Not the sort to compare with action-packed material, the movie's design still offers generally pleasing activity and ambiance in the rears. The music and song selections lightly bleed into the back, keeping listeners engaged, while a couple of discrete effects during appropriate scenes nicely enhance the soundfield. The front soundstage provides a wide and extensive presence with well-balanced channel separation. Dialogue takes top priority with excellent, fluid clarity and intelligibility so that viewers never miss out on a joke. The mid-range is sharply-rendered and surprisingly expansive with great transparency of the finer details. Low bass is not terribly demanding, but it provides a suitable punch and responsive to certain moments of action and to the music.
Taken all together, it's a very good and entertaining lossless mix that won't disappoint fans.
Supplements mirror those found on the DVD, which includes the choice of the R-rated or the unrated version of the movie.
'Bad Teacher' stars Cameron Diaz as a gold-digging, superficial educator who'd much rather find a wealthy hubby than mold young minds for a brighter future. Along with Justin Timberlake, Lucy Punch, and Jason Segel, the black comedy is an amusing watch but not quite as memorable as it really wants to be, and it could actually go much blacker. The Blu-ray features an excellent audio and video presentation and a fairly puny collection of supplements, making the overall package a decent purchase for fans and an easy rental for others.