Every other week, Addicted to Bad rummages through Hollywood’s junk drawer, looking for the worst of the worst. This week, Patrick administers his inner child a firm spanking with PAY IT FORWARD, starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt, who really should have known better…
Everyone remembers the teacher who changed their life. For me, it was Ms. O’Connell, a kind and generous geography teacher who not only taught me the principle exports of Mongolia and Yemen, but also the utter necessity of questioning authority. Her message to us was, “You only accept the rules of this patriarchal, elitist society if you choose to.” She never actually came out and said as much, but you could tell she meant it by her sincere dedication to low-cut tops and her complete unwillingness to wear a bra.
I understand, however, that many students aren’t lucky enough to have teachers who care enough to inspire their pubescent students through partially exposed cleavage. Although it’s hardly fair to blame the teachers themselves: Without exception, every state legislature in the union regularly declares it more important to supply our schools with items like “books,” “chalk,” and “metal detectors” instead of push-up bras and v-necks. Is it any wonder that our educational system is failing?
Which means that even fictional teachers like PAY IT FORWARD’s Mr. Simonet (played by Kevin Spacey under six metric tons of latex burn makeup), having no sweater puppies of his own to speak of, must resort to inspiring his students through bribery, otherwise known as “extra credit assignments.” Inevitably, of course, some overachieving snotbag is going to game the system and get 82 million extra credit points, thus throwing the curve for the rest of the class. And now, because Mommy potty trained him too early and his Daddy didn’t hug him enough, little Billy gets to sit out the final and the rest of the class gets a D-.
Simonet’s assignment challenges his students to come up with a plan to change the world and put it into action, which everyone in the class wisely ignores, save snotbag Haley Joel Osment, who presumably has lots of spare time now that he only sees dead people on alternate weekends and holidays. Not ten minutes after the bell, Haley has adopted a friendly homeless heroin addict, played by Jim Caviezel, whose research for his role apparently uncovered lots of addicts who eat bags of Oreos and then don’t brush.
When Haley’s mom (played by Helen Hunt, looking like she tried to do her hair and makeup in a wind tunnel) catches on to the assignment after she finds all her cookies are gone and one of the addict’s drawings is on the fridge, she is understandably upset. Taking time off from her busy schedule of working at one of those PG-13 strip clubs where the men don’t seem to mind that the women never quite get around to taking off any clothes, she storms down to the school and demands that Mr. Simonet stop encouraging his students to adopt random street people. At the very least, could he advise them to be a little pickier about dental hygiene? The two of them argue furiously, thus assuring us that they will have sex before the third act, in accordance with internationally recognized Movie Law.
Haley’s first attempt at extra credit foiled, he decides that the best way to ensure his grade is to get his teacher laid, possibly the best way to assure an A ever devised. Or maybe he just saw the previous scene’s fight and realized that it was pointless to resist the inevitable. Either way, he schemes like a “Scooby-Doo” villain to get the pair together, even going so far as to pull the old “fake apology note from the other person” gag from that episode where Fred and Daphne got in an argument and weren’t speaking. Lo and behold, the plan works even on non-cartoons, and the two go at it like horny badgers. Pretty soon, Haley’s sure-fire, albeit creepy, way to get A’s (AKA “Hooking Teachers Up With Your Mom”), which he codenames “Pay It Forward,” spreads through schools like wildfire. Teachers are getting laid right and left. Grade point averages are at historic highs. Wars end, tax revenues skyrocket from all the birth control and “gold star” sticker sales, and the world enters a new renaissance. Who knew?
Unfortunately, though, Haley’s not around to enjoy it all, because he was fatally wounded in a knife fight. Whoops! Apparently the filmmakers wanted to remind the audience that helping your mom score has a downside. Not since Bobby walked out of the shower on “Dallas” has Hollywood tried so hard to harsh the audience’s buzz. I’m surprised more films haven’t borrowed the technique:
BATMAN: Whew. Sure was tough beating the Joker. Guess I’ll go get a burger. [Gets hit by a bus.]
I predict that by 2010, all movies will end this way. Just you watch.
So, two hours later, where are we? Haley’s dead, and his mom still has awful hair, and Mr. Simonet has to put up with every C student in the school trying to set him up with their mom. Pay it forward, indeed. You know, all of this could have been avoided if Spacey had just worn a halter top like I suggested in the first place.
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