CHICAGO – Mention the name Harry Lennix, and images of his many character roles are bound to emerge – Harold Cooper in the TV series “The Blacklist,” General Swanwick from “Batman v Superman” and Commissioner Blades from Spike Lee’s recent “Chi-Raq.” The deeply knowledgeable Lennix brings his years of dramatic expertise, as he directs the Congo Square Theatre Company’s world premiere stage play “A Small Oak Tree Runs Red.’
Film Review: Cameron Diaz Commits Sin of Boredom in ‘Bad Teacher’
CHICAGO – If you’re going to be bad, be bad. But this is mainstream Hollywood “product,” starring Cameron Diaz, and while the concept of the new film “Bad Teacher” had promise, it eventually fell down on the weight of happy resolutions and the worse mortal sin for a comedy…it was dull.
Director Jake Kasdan, who has been much more interesting in previous films (”Zero Effect,” “Orange County,” “The TV Set”) gets bogged down with a passive aggressive script, by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, and wastes a pretty talented comic cast. The ensemble gamely tries to deliver some wooden material and despite some individual moments, can’t deliver the overall goodness of the “badness.”
Cameron Diaz is middle school teacher Elizabeth Halsey, who is leaving her job at the John Adams academy, somewhere in Illinois (near Chicago, but never spelled out). She is off to marry her rich fiancé and live the glamorous life she thinks she deserves. Her happiness turns to shock when her sugar daddy dumps her, and the former teacher is now forced to go back to John Adams with no prospects, except the weak notion that if she gets a boob job the right rich guy will come her way.
Elizabeth hates her teaching life now, especially since she is right across the hall from super-educator Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) and can’t relate to fellow teachers Lynn (Phyllis Smith from TV’s “The Office”) and Russell (Jason Segel). The tide turns a bit when a new substitute named Scott (Justin Timberlake) is revealed to be from a wealthy family. Elizabeth and Amy suddenly become rivals for the same man, and the situation escalates when the bad teacher seems to be losing out to the good teacher.
As the academic year rolls along, Elizabeth keeps saving for her plastic surgery, the randy gym teacher Russell keeps pining after her charms and Principal Wally Snur (John Michael Higgins) struggles to make sense of it all. To misquote Bill Murray from “Tootsie,” that is one nutty schoolhouse.
Photo credit: Gemma Lamana for Columbia Pictures