Film Review: “Bad Teacher”

by Jason LeRoy on June 24, 2011

Jason Segel, Kaitlyn Dever, and Cameron Diaz in BAD TEACHER

starring: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel, Lucy Punch, Phyllis Smith, John Michael Higgins, Thomas Lennon, Eric Stonestreet, Molly Shannon

written by: Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg

directed by: Jake Kasdan

MPAA: Rated R for sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use.

Bad Teacher is a lean, mean, gleefully amoral comedy that gives Cameron Diaz her finest comedic showcase since the notorious 2002 raunchfest The Sweetest Thing. What can I say? She’s good at being dirty. Although this is a big-studio summer comedy, which means we know her character will reform at least somewhat by the end, the hard-R script (by The Office writer-producers Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg) still lets her get away with a hell of a lot.

Diaz stars as Elizabeth Halsey, who could be accurately described as not a very good person. As the film begins, she is concluding her first (and, she hopes, only) year as a middle school English teacher. She is engaged to a very wealthy man, and intends to happily live out the rest of her days as a trophy wife. But when her fiance gets wise to her gold-digging ways and breaks off the engagement, Elizabeth is thrown into a tailspin. After several months of trial and error, she comes to the conclusion that the only way she’ll be able to land the sugar daddy of her dreams is by getting breast implants.

Newly broke and sharing a squalid apartment with a biker (Eric Stonestreet) she met on Craigslist, Elizabeth slinks back to John Adams Middle School (or JAMS for short) and resumes her bare-minimum “teaching” while searching for schemes to earn the $10K she’ll need for her new tits. Not that her educational methods (playing a different classroom-set movie each day while napping at her desk) are really fooling anyone on the faculty, including the principal (John Michael Higgins), the only teacher who seems to seek her friendship (scene-stealer Phyllis Smith), or the grounded gym teacher who sees through her (Jason Segel). Only one teacher, chipper overachiever Amy Squirrel (a deranged Lucy Punch), sets her sights on changing Elizabeth. At first she just wants to reform her, but when a handsome new substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake) comes between them, it becomes all-out war.

Bad Teacher isn’t really what I’d describe as black comedy. Its tone is relentlessly energetic and entertaining, and while Elizabeth unapologetically commits a number of reprehensible acts, I wouldn’t characterize the film itself as misanthropic. It’s much more of a winking, “Aren’t I so naughty?” affair. It is also, fortunately, very funny. Some of the humor feels a bit strained, as if the screenwriters and director Jake Kasdan (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story) were trying a bit too hard to wring the maximum comedic potential from every last scene. It could have occasionally used a lighter touch.

Diaz, looking absolutely stunning (and not exactly broke) while parading around in Louboutins and an endless array of chic skintight ensembles, succeeds in making Elizabeth a heroine that we root for, even as we watch her do villainous things. Timberlake, who dated Diaz for four years, dials back his swagger as the nerdy, sweet-natured substitute teacher who makes the mistake of falling for Amy despite Elizabeth’s interest in him. Much has been made of a humorously intimate scene between the two in the film; let’s just say we should all be so comfortable with our exes (or maybe we shouldn’t).

I love Bad Teacher for the mere fact that it seduces the audience into rooting for a shameless, brazen, borderline-sociopathic gold digger whose only goal is to get breast implants and marry rich. Whenever Elizabeth’s plans hit a speed bump, you actually find yourself thinking, “But what about her tits?!” Between this and Bridesmaids, this appears to be the summer of female-driven R-rated comedies (with no connection to four girlfriends in New York City). And while Bad Teacher is nowhere near as revelatory as Bridesmaids, it still delivers plenty of laughs while giving Cameron Diaz one of the best roles of her career.

Read Also:

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: