Long story short “Bad Teacher” the new comedy starring Cameron Diaz is funny. Okay, it is not a great comedy, but it has its moment and is worth a watch. It does, however, have a huge problem: there is no one to like. The movie can really be summed up with the good, the bad and the ugly.
Diaz plays Elizabeth Halsey who is forced to return to her teaching job after her wealthy fiancé dumps her. Halsey makes no secret that she couldn’t give a damn about teaching and is really only interested in being a gold digger and getting high.
She meets handsome long-term substitute Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake) and sets her sights on him when she learns that his family is wealthy. Finding out his ex-girlfriend is “well endowed” Diaz decides a boob job is the way to his heart. Over the course of the film Diaz steals, scams and embezzles money to pay for the enhancements.
The movie is funny, though Jason (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) Segal steals the show as gym teacher Russell Gettis. Segal has most of the good lines, though the best is of course shown in the trailer when he gets into an argument with a student about who is better Michael Jordan or Lebron James.
Phyllis (The Office) Smith is also very good as fellow teacher Lynn Davies, who tries so hard to fit in with the “too cool for school” Diaz.
The movie balances raunchy humor, with typical school humor and some good physical comedy. It mostly avoids cheap gross-out laughs, though a dry humping scene does occur.
Most of the characters are not likeable. Diaz really has no redeeming characteristics until a momentary act of kindness towards a student in the third act, and even when she becomes “motivated” to actually teach, she does it out of greed.
We’ve seen the slacker-teacher character plenty of times, but they are usually portrayed with a heart of gold from the start. The best comparison would be Jack Black’s character in “School of Rock”. His character was irresponsible and greedy, but from the start we knew he was a decent guy who was going to do well by his students.
Not so for Diaz. Even in the end, when she does some good and “sees the light” she still lies, cheats and presumably steals.
In most films the slacker-teacher has people around them who are even worse. Black’s Dewey had Sarah Silverman’s Patty as his nemesis. You rooted for Black because Silverman was a shrew, his old band did him wrong and the school administration was stuffy. In “Bad Teacher” I rooted against Diaz the entire way.
The rest of the cast is just as bad. Some start out as somewhat likeable, like Lucy Punch’s Amy Squirrel, an annoying, over zealous teacher who start off as awkward and geeky but soon becomes petty and vindictive. Timberlake is a douche from the moment he is introduced.
Really, only Smith’s frumpy Lynn Davies is a likeable character. She tries so hard to fit in with the “cool kids” (Diaz and Segal) but is farm more like the milquetoast teachers at the school (Punch and Timberlake).
Well, it’s Diaz. Okay, her body is smoking (the car wash scene was entertaining) but facially she is not aging well. I have to admit, I have never been the biggest Diaz fan from a looks standpoint, but always found her cute or pretty enough for the roles she was cast in. In “Bad Teacher” she looks haggard at times. Her face is puffy, her eyes have bags in some scenes and look heavy-lidded in others. Her make-up artist does her no favors as well, as her eye make-up looks clumpy and her lipstick is jarring in places.
Bad Teacher tries to be “Bad Santa” crossed with “School of Rock” and works for the most part. If you don’t mind rooting against, or at least not caring for, the protagonist, then there are enough laughs to make it worth seeing.
It’s worth seeing at the matinee or with a “Groupon”.