Bad Education Movie Review
Not only has quarantine shut down theaters and moved the advent of major releases to the end of time, it has made it harder to discern the good from the bad that is making its way directly to streaming. While the line between “what is good enough for theaters” and “direct to video” has blurred considerably in recent years, there is still a degree of reason, statistically speaking, to asking nagging questions such as “Why is a movie starring Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney on HBO and not waiting to hit theaters in November for an Oscar run?”
The truth, in the case of Bad Education, is that it isn’t entirely good.
Not bad either, but not good. Middling. Mediocre. Those are a couple words that come to mind.
Disappointing. Failed potential.
A couple more.
Bad Education is about a high-and-mighty school administrator (Jackman) and his right-hand woman (Janney), who commit embezzlement and fraud to the tune of several million dollars of taxpayer money. Their fall comes at the hands of a teenage reporter who starts digging through financials.
The movie is inspired by a true story. “Inspired” usually means very loosely aligned to what actually happened.
The most compelling part of Bad Education is the teenage reporter--played by Geraldine Viswanathan--and her investigation. Student newspaper writers don’t typically land real scoops, let alone ones that result in a national scandal and jail time for multiple individuals. It would be a pretty great thing to focus on.
Unfortunately, Bad Education stars A-lister Jackman and well-know Janney, which means director Cory Finley and writer Mike Makowsky (who, according to Wikipedia, was a student at Rosyln High School when the scandal hit) spend more time following these two around, despite their characters being surprisingly flat, than Viswanathan’s.
Both Jackman and Janney are fine in their respective roles, but neither are quite able to escape the so-so material. Bad Education is marketed as a comedy-drama, but it simply isn’t funny. You can tell it maybe, sort of, is trying to be, and that Jackman and Janney’s characters are intended to be larger than life to accentuate some form of humor, but it doesn’t land. They do their bits, you shrug, and wait for more interesting things to happen.
Sadly, Viswanathan and her investigation get shorthrift. Had Finley devoted just 10% more time to it, had really dug into her efforts and built some momentum around it, he may have been onto something. Had he treated Jackman and Janney as supporting characters, colorful individuals who inject some energy and smarm into the story, Bad Education may have worked.
As is, Bad Education doesn’t fail, but a passing grade is hardly a respectable one.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.