Thursday Trailer Face-Off! Larry Crowne vs. Bad Teacher

By

Published May 5, 2011

 

Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Larry Crowne vs. Bad Teacher, two movies in which a less-than-enthusiastic (and maybe alcoholic!) lady teacher gets a jolt of inspiration to improve her performance when a new man enters her life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PremiseIn Larry Crowne, the titular character (Tom Hanks) gets laid off from his job as manager at a big-box company (even though he’s been Employee of the Month eight times!). Being fired is the kick in the pants that inspires him to get an education, so he enrolls at his local community college, where he develops a crush on his public-speaking teacher, Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), who has very little interest in actually teaching her class. In Bad Teacher, Elizabeth (Cameron Diaz) also plays a teacher—one who hates teaching and everything about it. When she discovers that the cute new substitute at her school (Justin Timberlake) comes from an old-money fancy-watch dynasty, she vows to raise enough money to get a boob job, which she’s certain is the way to capture his heart. Silly as this premise is, it wins the category because at least there’s some sense of dramatic tension; we couldn’t really find any trace of conflict in the Larry Crowne trailer, which seems to be about a likable guy doing likable things with no obstacles in his way (except getting fired early on). Advantage: Bad Teacher

CastThat said, obviously we’ll still see Larry Crowne, because Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts are American treasures. And though we didn’t personally see Charlie Wilson’s War, we’ve heard they were good in it together! Larry Crowne also features Bryan Cranston, Cedric the Entertainer, Taraji P. Henson, and Wilmer Valderrama; we like about half of those people and feel neutral about the other half (but which is which?! We’ll never tell). Bad Teacher‘s Diaz and Timberlake are, maybe, at the same A-list level as Hanks and Roberts, for a verging-on-30 generation. And we think its inclusion of Jason Segel probably balances out Larry Crowne‘s B-listers. Too close to call! Advantage: Draw

DirectorLarry Crowne was also directed by Hanks; in addition to episodes of Band of Brothers and From the Earth to the Moon, Hanks directed That Thing You Do!, which is so great. Bad Teacher director Jake Kasdan’s directorial credits include a couple of movies we’ve never heard of (Zero Effect, The TV Set) as well as okay comedies Orange County and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Overall, we kind of trust Hanks more. Advantage: Larry Crowne

Teacher DrinkingAt 1:10 in the Larry Crowne trailer, Julia Roberts makes what appears to be smoothie made of ice and whiskey. “Mm, brain freeze!” she exclaims, adorably. At 0:22 in the Bad Teacher trailer, Cameron Diaz opens one of those tiny airplane bottles of Jack Daniels, slumped over the lectern in her classroom. Diaz’s drinking at her place of work is a little more ballsy, but we’ll give it to Larry Crowne because Roberts makes more effort, what with the blender and all. Advantage: Larry Crowne

Teacher Attitude“So… stupid,” we hear Diaz exclaim in Bad Teacher as she marks up a student’s test. Then she screams, “Morons!” and throws a pile of papers at her class. Also, she snores at her desk. Roberts, on the other hand, tries to nix her class altogether: “The state requires a minimum of ten students, so this class is canceled!” she says with a grin, before her tenth student, Hanks, bumbles in late. Generally, it’s a lot more fun to watch someone be openly antagonistic than just apathetic, so Diaz wins this one. Advantage: Bad Teacher

Must-See TV AnaloguesWe feel it’s important to point out that both films have strong connections to NBC’s Thursday night lineup: Larry Crowne has essentially the same conceit as Community does (“Who goes to community college? A bunch of lovable, doofy misfits! Let’s mine that setup for both laughs and heartstring tugs!”), and even the specific class involved—public speaking—is one we’ve seen played out on Community. Bad Teacher, on the other hand, features the excellent and undersung Phyllis Smith in what appears to be a version of the same character she plays on The Office: seemingly meek, but secretly a “big personality.” We’re so happy to see her getting film work! Advantage: Bad Teacher 

The VerdictWe are forced to take issue with one aspect of Bad Teacher‘s trailer: when she’s sleeping at her desk at 0:27, she is clearly wearing Louboutins, which calls into question the whole premise of her trying to save her pennies for plastic surgery—either she can afford Loubs or she can’t afford boobs, but the movie can’t have it both ways. However, that aside, we still say Bad Teacher looks like the funnier, fresher film of the two, for the reason we mentioned earlier: we’re having trouble finding any dramatic arc in the Larry Crowne trailer. It’s so cheerful, and everyone is so darn likable! Seriously, try to count how many times people smile in this trailer—we lost track! It’s not scored by “Solsbury Hill,” but it might as well be. Winner: Bad Teacher