VOD Review - Teacher of the Year (2015)

Matt Letscher in 'Teacher of the Year'
Written and directed by Jason Strouse, this movie feels like an episode of NBC's The Office. It seems as if Strouse is trying to venture into Christopher Guest territory but in reality this is an episode of The Office, if that show was set, not at a paper company in somewhere, Pennsylvania, but instead a charter school in somewhere, California. The problem is that it possesses way more characters who are more idiotic and way more awful than the characters in that American television series.

Even though he's not the protagonist, Keegan-Michael Key stars as Principal Ronald Douche. Despite only being in a few scenes and none of the story revolving around him, Keegan-Michael Key is on the poster and cover art. He's great with his main joke being that he always has to correct people on how to pronounce his name. It's pronounced DOO-SHAY and not DOOSH, the latter pronunciation referring more to the feminine hygiene product.

Matt Letscher (Scandal and The Carrie Diaries) co-stars as Mitch Carter, the actual protagonist of this film. He's the English teacher at Truman High School. He's also the soccer coach and the teachers' union representative. A documentary crew comes to make a movie about him after he wins the Teacher of the Year award. Except, if this movie is The Office, the Principal is Steve Carell's character, while Mitch is John Krasinski's character.

Mitch gets a job offer in Washington, DC, for a lobbying position at a corporation with special interests in private education. The movie then presents the pros and cons of Mitch taking the job. Mitch has a wife and daughter whose opinions go back and forth. It's a tug-of-war therefore of what Mitch will do, if he'll stay or if he'll go.

Along the way, we meet the various other teachers and administrators who weigh-in on the decision, as well as comment and complain about their own lives and jobs. All of whom are annoying, or just weirdly odd. The worst are the two guidance counselors who are twin brothers Clive and Lowell Hammer, played respectively by Randy and Jason Sklar. Some might be considered funny like Brian Campbell, the AP Calculus and math teacher, played by Chris Conner.

A very provocative story is built around Brian and him being accused of a sexual assault, which changes the dynamic and tone of the movie pretty drastically. It's not to say that a comedy couldn't be had about a teacher being accused of assault or molestation, but it makes for a difficult balancing act with all the other comedy here. I'm not sure if Strouse strikes that balance.

I was fascinated with one of Mitch's students. Alex Carrillo is a soccer player who gets into a fight and garners extra attention from Mitch. Gabriel Chavarria from the Hulu series East Los High plays Alex and is an interesting, young, Latino actor of whom I wish we got more.

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 22 mins.


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