Theatrical Review: BAD TEACHER

J.C. De Leon

by: J.C. De Leon
June 23rd, 2011

Writers: Gene Stupnitsky, Lee Eisenberg
Director: Jake Kasdan
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Lucy Punch, Jason Segel, Phyllis Smith, John Michael Higgins
Studio: Columbia Pictures

No one can argue that being a teacher is easy. Sure, to some it may seem like teachers only work until 3PM and get summers off. It is, however, an incredibly noble profession and, right now is an incredibly hard time to be a teacher in America. Should a movie like BAD TEACHER even exist, given all that’s going on with teachers across the country? Maybe it isn’t appropriate to have a movie such as this make fun of such a well-intentioned and necessary occupation, but sometimes a movie can just be a fun time at the theater. Besides, Christmas wasn’t a good time to release BAD SANTA, and nobody seemed to mind. Well, maybe some people did.

BAD TEACHER begins on the last day of a school year, when all of the teachers gather around over a bottle of champagne (I knew teachers did that, by the way!) to bid farewell to those teachers who won’t be returning for the next year. Among them is Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz), a gold-digger who is obvious to everyone (except her co-workers, apparently) and who has no interest in teaching or even getting to know her co-workers. This also happens to be the day that her rich fiancée and his mother figure out that Elizabeth is only interested in the money. Despite her best efforts to land a man over the summer, she is forced to come back to the middle school she left a few months before to an occupation that she presumably cares even less about than she did the year before. She also decides that a new pair of boobs is how she’ll land a man who will take care of her. On the first day back at school, she meets the new substitute teacher, Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), a handsome and charming gentlemen who, besides catching Elizabeth’s eye with his good looks, also happens to come from a rich family. From that point on, her mission is set, despite any potential interference from over-achieving rival Amy Squirrel (Judy Punch) or the constant wooing from gym teacher Russell Gettis (Jason Segel).

People may be curious to see how Cameron Diaz handles such a raunchy and foul-mouthed role, but she does it admirably here. She doles out gems like “Keep saying things like that and you’re gonna get punched” to the class overachiever, and gives brutally honest (yet genuinely helpful advice) to the nerdy quiet kid in class in an unxpectedly fun manner. The rest of the performances here are equally as good, as it’s evident that every member of the cast believed in this film, and there isn’t a phoned-in performance here at all. Much of that credit has to go to director Jake Kasdan. The other gold star in the film was Justin Timberlake, who continues to impress, and has recently stared to prove just how diverse of an actor he can be.

The film, as a whole, is incredibly funny. That being said, it does have some general script problems. As it’s going along,given how funny it is, it’s easy to lose sight that the narrative seems to go off the rails at times; yet, upon repeated viewings, these issues may become more glaring. Too many plot points get neatly wrapped up in bows at the strangest of times, and it’s as if everyone forgot there was supposed to be a three-part structure to the film. This is particularly true of the character arc that Elizabeth goes through.

None of that may matter, though. BAD TEACHER may be one of those comedies that feels like a collection of skits jumbled together to kind of form a complete story but, at the same time, it’s actually genuinely funny. In fact, funny enough to where an audience may not care about some of the nonsense things happening on screen, or even that they’re watching someone make a mockery of a truly great occupation. BAD TEACHER is a comedy, and a funny one. It’s okay to laugh with it.

Grade: B+

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