The Downside Of Overeducation –Bad Teacher and Midnight In Paris

When the pass for the film screening listed the name of the movie followed by my name, so that it read Bad Teacher David Rolland, I actually had higher hopes for the new Cameron Diaz vehicle than the previews should have allowed.  Four years of substitute teaching around Los Angeles has me convinced there is a great  movie out there about uninspirational teachers. But Bad Teacher like Half Nelson before it let me down in this regard.

Bad Teacher does have some laughs, but the jokes are not very well thought out and have the que sera sera feeling of an improv acting class. Let’s have the bad teacher drink shots in class and smoke pot in the parking lot! While there are certainly teachers who are alcoholics and drug addicts, the more interesting and plentiful genus of bad teacher are those that have no desire to be doing their job. Where’s the teacher who sells annuities to his colleagues and car insurance to his students who when he is transferred to a more dangerous school is excited because there will be a whole new prospective client base? Even though this movie traffics in the realm of the absurd a little authenticity could have helped.

This authenticity problem also infects the new Woody Allen movie, Midnight In Paris. It is a fantasy where Owen Wilson wanders around Paris and every midnight gets transported back to the 1920s where he meets Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Salvador Dali. The time travel part all worked well enough for me. My problem laid with the protagonist who was a millionaire hack screenwriter who wanted to give up his day job of writing bad movies to be a novelist in Paris. Outside of Woody Allen and his ivory tower is there a person in the world who can identify with this problem?

No one is a bigger fan of Woody Allen’s pre-1980 work than me. He started out making straight comedies like Bananas and Sleeper and then in Manhattan he toned down the zaniness to create what I consider his masterpiece.  But the tragic result of the success of his “art film” put Woody on the slippery slope that he should aspire to be Ingmar Bergman rather than the missing Marx Brother. Thus his movies are now littered with pseudo-intellectuals debating what is art while hidden deep in the movie is one good bellybusting joke. Midway through the movie Owen Wilson’s father-in-law hires a private investigator to follow Wilson and see where he goes when he disappears at night.

This subplot disappears until the end of the movie when the father-in-law mentions that the French PI got lost. We then cut to the PI wandering through the palace of Versailles in the 1700s where Marie Antoinette yells, “Off with his head!” 

I’d rather see Woody Allen make a movie about the time travelling PI rather than next year’s inevitable star-studded whine fest about how he should be a more serious artist.

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