It’s not often that you get to see Cameron Diaz playing a constantly high and drunk school teacher whose main goal in life is to get a new pair of boobs. Her character, Elizabeth Halsey is completely shallow and very self-centered. Her only positive trait is that of dedication. She’s very dedicated when it comes to trying to get with the new substitute teacher, Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake). Why would she want to have a relationship with a sub? Simple, his family comes from wealth and this could be her meal ticket out of the teaching life after her last boyfriend dumped her because he found out that she only likes him for his money. It’s this kind of dark humor that I love and Bad Teacher works really well for the most part.
Bad Teacher came out of the gate doomed, mainly because it is a big studio production. Not often does a studio like Sony deliver a mainstream, wide released dark comedy that stays true to its origins. Usually a studio styled dark comedy ends with the character changing their ways and becoming a good person, which I absolutely hate, which is why I stick to independent dark comedies. But Bad Teacher manages to stay on its evil path for most of the movie. The ending does show signs of positive life in Elizabeth, but she still stays rotten, which I love!
As I mentioned briefly before, the film is about Elizabeth being a bad teacher. She shows movies every day, uses curse words when grading papers and usually comes to work high or drunk. If she starts her day sober then you can almost count on her being under the influence of some sort of drug by the days end. She’s only sticking with this teaching gig so that she can make enough money to get breast implants. Her goal is to get implants and then hopefully attract the attention of a wealthy man to support her. Now, she finds a wealthy man in the form of a substitute teacher at the school named Scott. The rest of the film plays out in a very funny manner. While trying to seduce Scott she has several run in’s with the teacher from across the hall, Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch). Amy and Elizabeth are both competing for Scott’s love and its very funny watching the two go back and forth.
Laying low in the background is the gym teacher, Russell Gettis (Jason Segel). Russell knows what kind of girl Elizabeth is and he tries his very best to get with her. He knows that he stands no chance with his average salary, but he comes off as that guy that just won’t quit. He’s probably the most normal character of the whole film and I thought that was a bit odd considering the casting of the always wacky Jason Segel. It was nice seeing him play a normal, but funny guy. He is very down to earth and entertaining.
What makes this film work is how unrelenting it is. Elizabeth is such a mean and cold hearted person that you can’t stand but to love. It’s hilarious watching her trick these innocent people into giving her what she wants and I rarely felt bad for them. It plays out a lot like Bad Santa, but not as harsh. Bad Santa was funny because Billy Bob Thornton‘s character was such a piece of shit. You couldn’t believe how rotten he was at the core and how most of his moments of drunken stupor resulted in such hard laughs. But at the end of the day I would never want to share a meal with Billy Bob’s character. Elizabeth on the other hand has that general sense of bad, but she plays it off more like the bad girl everyone wants than a straight up dickhead like Billy Bob, which is nice and somewhat relatable on certain levels.
Cameron Diaz is refreshing as an asshole. I’m so sick of her playing middle of the road characters that you really could care less about. There are far more attractive women in Hollywood to play the typical eye candy roles and it’s great to see Diaz go out of her comfort zone again and play a little bit more of a risky character. It was 100% believable and genuine. Justin Timberlake proved he can act in last years The Social Network, which makes his role in Bad Teacher come off as a bit of a miscast. He doesn’t fit the role at all and pretty much every scene with him is wasted. He is such a great actor and unfortunately Bad Teacher just shows how he can act like a dumb ass. I’m almost positive director Jake Kasdan (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story) wanted to make the character of Scott to look like a complete idiot, but why choose such good talent like Timberlake?
Lucy Punch had a few instances where she went a little overboard with her character, but luckily they were brief and towards the end.
The best parts of this movie were Jason Segel and Phyllis Smith. Both managed to bring a bulk of the more humorous moments of the film and I enjoyed their relationships with Diaz’s character. Diaz and Segel had some really good chemistry in Bad Teacher, which was good because everything with Diaz and Timberlake fell pretty flat. Phyllis Smith played Lynn, the overweight lady that would treat Elizabeth to lunch often and the general backup girl to everything Elizabeth did. If Elizabeth wanted to go to a party or plan some sort of terrible scheme, she would always drag Lynn down with her and the way Lynn reacts to most of the moments were priceless.
Overall, Bad Teacher works on so many levels as a studio dark comedy. It manages to stay very dirty and raunchy through most of the running time without ever giving you too much positive insight. Cameron Diaz plays a really good asshole and Jason Segel is great to watch counter act her. The only real problems it has are a few moments with Lucy Punch that go from funny to downright silly and the very passable performance by Justin Timberlake. I found myself laughing at most of the film and I can’t wait to see some sort of directors cut on Blu-ray. It’s very dark and mean, but if you’re into those sorts of films it will be worth the watch.
Bad Teacher – 8/10