Release date: June 23, 2011
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Screenplay by: Gene Stupnitsky & Lee Eisenberg
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Lucy Punch, Justin Timberlake, Phyllis Smith, John Michael Higgins, Eric Stonestreet, Molly Shannon, Thomas Lennon
Adding to the already lengthy list of less than mediocre comedies this year, Bad Teacher needs no more warning than the word “bad” being in its own title. Sporting some of the most superficial characters and a script that should make most women cringe from the use of stereotypes, Bad Teacher should not be considered a comedy, but a tragedy for comedy films everywhere.
It’s simple to see within the first few minutes of the film that Elizabeth Halsey (Diaz) is a gold-digger. All she wants is a man who will support her and use his cash. When her fiancé works out the truth and leaves her, she is forced to return to her job as a school teacher. Joining her in the school are a collection of characters: the vivacious Amy Squirrel (Punch), the timid Lynn Davies (Smith), the dolphin obsessed Principal Snur (Higgins), and the lovable gym coach Russell (Segel). Even worse about Halsey is that she could not care less about her students, her co-workers, or – quite frankly – herself.
In order to achieve her gold-digging dream life, Elizabeth Halsey plans on buying her a new pair of breasts – seeing as that is the only thing that she believes she’s missing. Soon enough, a rich and handsome substitute (Timberlake) comes into the picture and she must compete with her colleague Squirrel to win his affection. However, she must also engage in another competition with her fellow teacher to win the $5,700 bonus given to the teacher with the best academic results on the Illinois State Test.
You’d think with a cast like this, there would be a good movie, but the overwhelmingly bad writing job truly kicks most of the comedic aspect out of the film. Brought to you by the writers of Year One, you have a screenplay that delivers barely any laughs and has some of the most obnoxious characters of all time. Although they attempted to add in plenty of subplots, not a single one went anywhere. At one point, Elizabeth offers to tutor the students in an attempt to extort money from their parents, but it goes nowhere after a short scene. Even more disappointing was the continuous mention of something that happened in the past with Amy Squirrel causing her peculiar nature, but that isn’t revealed whatsoever throughout the film.
Aside from Diaz’s character being completely unlikable, she had literally no depth. She is ruthless, narcissistic, and it boggles the mind to figure out how exactly she got into education with an attitude like that. Drinking in class, smoking marijuana in the parking lot, and playing Stand and Deliver to her students on the first day – she is a prime example of a terrible teacher. This would all be fine and dandy if there were any sort of redemption for her, but she goes on like this without a single consequence for her many flaws. Cameron Diaz does her best as Elizabeth, but a good performance can only do so much when you have terrible writing – one that just happens to involve a trashy car wash replica of the famous Cool Hand Luke scene.
Segel and Punch both deserve to be rewarded for truly bringing some appeal to the movie, delivering some of the only good lines in the film and establishing relatively solid characters – even if Punch’s over the top character tires out after about an hour. Thomas Lennon also delivers plenty of laughs as he usually does, but the writing for some of his other films, such as 17 Again and I Love You, Man, have worked far better for him. Timberlake didn’t do too bad, but he’s done surprisingly better when it comes to acting, and he seems to be fine with making fun of himself. Smith would do better off staying with the decent writing that The Office gives her character instead of submitting herself to this, and although Molly Shannon and Eric Stonestreet were barely included in the film, they definitely gave my favorite performances as an overly supportive mother and a reckless roommate. Honestly, it’s a wonder how any actor in this cast could ever have thought that it would be a good idea to take on a film with a script as terrible as this one.
This is a classic case of good premise gone bad. The story of a completely inadequate, money-hungry teacher marketed as a raunchy comedy that achieved a red band trailer? Sounds pretty entertaining to me. Unfortunately enough, not even the extreme effort for a cast of good actors could actually bring what was advertised. Even with my extremely low expectations, this left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Then again, if you’re just out for a movie that’s desperate for laughs and poor attempts at vulgar humor, you might just actually enjoy the bad excuse for a comedy, Bad Teacher.