Notable Cast: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel, Lucy Punch, Phyllis Smith, John Michael Higgins
Review: Director Jake Kasdan’s work always has a special boost with me because his last film, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, is easily one of the funniest films I’ve seen in the last some odd years. He’s a man who has worked on such Apatow projects as “Freaks and Geeks” and “Undeclared,” giving him perfect tutelage in the art of comedy. But Bad Teacher lacks that certain flare and privileged upbringing that he brought to Walk Hard, and instead seems like just another generic raunchy comedy. If you look at each Apatow film, you can’t help but notice something endearing about each film, being more than just shit and penis jokes (even if Funny People wasn’t all that funny). Bad Teacher was quite the opposite, as it just tried to hit on the raunch and skip on the story. I expected better out of Kasdan, but everyone is entitled to stumble a little bit, right?
Elizabeth Halsey (Diaz) is every middle school kid’s dream teacher: smokin’ hot, loves to party, and couldn’t care less about actually teaching. Well, hell, Elizabeth Halsey is EVERY student’s dream. Ready to move in with her rich boyfriend and leave the working world behind, her life is shattered when he dumps her and forces her back to work. Stuck teaching for at least another year, she drops the whole fake goody-goody act and starts teaching the only way she knows how: by not actually doing it. Her focus becomes earning enough money for a boob job so she can just marry rich and once again ditch her awful day job. But when an over-achieving rival teacher Amy Squirrel (Punch) starts to get in the way of her “strange” teaching methods, her cover comes closer and closer to being blown. She does find motivation in the new substitute teacher Scott (Timberlake), who seems to be the perfect fit for her. Being smart, funny, and studly draw Elizabeth in, but the clincher is his extremely successful watch-making family name. It seems like a home run, but again Amy weasels her way into Elizabeth’s plans. From here on, it’s an all out class versus class war as the two teachers fight not only for Scott, but also for the bonus granted to the class with the highest standardized test scores. This is just the kind of film parents need to see in order to instill confidence regarding out school system…
Insert any “hot for teacher” joke here…spanking, punishment, discipline…take your pick…
Bad Teacher was not a complete bummer as it did elicit some one time only shock value laughs. The idea of the foul mouthed teacher interacting with prim and proper middle school students is always good for a few laughs, so you can definitely count on that. The kids have some of the funniest lines in the film actually, picking up the slack for the under achieving regular cast. The funny characters were utilized too little, while the unfunny characters become the main focus. Jason Segel versus Justin Timberlake is a much closer battle in terms of comedic talents than one may think, but you have to be utilizing Segel more. He plays the “normal dude” gym teacher trying to win over Diaz’s character using his average charm, and thankfully when he’s involved in a scene he’s always spot on. That said, I wasn’t really a fan at all of Timberlake playing the straight edge role either. I understand why he had to in order to be an opposite to Diaz’s raunchified persona, but the comedy from his character didn’t play the way I would have liked. Words like corny, hokey, and forced come to mind while thinking of that role. Timberlake needs more roles like the witty Sean Parker in The Social Network, where he can rock his ultra cool personality and still be in character. It’s always a bummer when your support is stronger than the main cast, and a guy like John Michael Higgins is going to make that happen 9 times out of 10. He was fantastic as the principal, just as he’s fantastic in pretty much any role he does. So here, Bad Teacher has the problem of having distracting hilarious supporting characters accompanied by less funny leads. The main characters are supposed to be the focus, not the background.
But Cameron Diaz was the main character, playing the “bad teacher” in question. She is a talented actress, but to me hasn’t been relevant since Gangs of New York in 2002. Bad Teacher didn’t do much for her either in my opinion, as she was out shined by the more comedy savvy Lucy Punch. I got sick of the hard-ass exterior of Diaz’s character after a while because I knew in the course of the story it was going to wear off anyway. I could only see her get caught smoking pot and doing inappropriate things to students so many times before it got too repetitive. I know Cameron can’t help how the character was written and has to just follow orders though, as Diaz does come off as a believable bitch (I certainly can’t believe she’s one in real life). I also have to admit, thanks to the car wash scene, we get to see how fine she still looks for her age. Good for you Cameron.
So in the grand scheme of things, Bad Teacher just is. It won’t knock your socks off but it won’t leave you doubled over in pain either. I feel myself saying that a lot lately, but that’s just the state of movies in general around this time. Bad Teacher also suffers from the age-old problem of using all your best material in the trailer. I died every time I saw Jason Segel yelling at the student about LeBron James in the commercial, but when that part came up in the movie I could barely muster a smirk. Bad Teacher was a one trick pony in desperate need of an upgrade. It would be like all if your pony could do was jump while all the other ponies could fly. Who was the upper hand then?
Final Rating: 6 bad apples out of 10
This picture? Appropriate. Google Imaging Bad Teacher? Not appropriate.