Film: Bad Teacher (A)
Director: Jake Kasdan
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Justin Timberlake, Lucy Punch. Phyllis Smith
Elizabeth Halsey’s (Diaz) plans to quit her teaching job and live off her wealthy husband come to naught after his mother wisens him to her gold-digging ways. Slinking back to her life of pedagogy (ie showing movies related to teaching while she sleeps off her hangovers), the drunken, pot-smoking, foul-mouthed wretch falls for the straight-laced (and well-heeled) substitute teacher Scott Delacorte (Timberlake).
With Scott nearing closer to Amy Squirrel (Punch), a dedicated teacher who’s something of a control freak in the guise of an oddball, Elizabeth, shallow as she is, attributes her inability to bait him to the size of her chest. With the goal of getting breast implants, Elisabeth (who, as mentioned before has no qualm with seeking out men to milk for all their worth) kicks off a scheme that commences with her manipulating her way into the principal's good books by working his dolphin fetish. The one person who doesn’t care about the size of Elizabeth’s chest is Russell (Segel), a likeable slacker gym teacher to whom she makes it clear from the start that she is above him.
Bad Teacher, after starting out with some promise, slips predictably into the glove of conventionalism as if on cue. There are just so many laughs you can get with the anti-heroine and her amoral antics and, in the absence of zany situations or a plot (Think Leaves of Grass), those get old fast. A few peripheral characters like Amy, the school’s principle, and Elizabeth’s timid friend Lynn (Smith) are amusing, but the story over-relies on the protagonist to provide the ‘wicked humour.’ Justin Timberlake's character is a bizarre milksop who adds nothing to the film.
It's hard to be sympathetic towards someone who is decidedly cold-hearted. And for what? If there were some circumstances, not necessarily existential ones, that made her do the things she did, then maybe, she could be identified with. Performance-wise everyone manages well enough, (though Punch deserves special mention as the prim-and-proper sugary psychopath), but it’s the weak and one-dimensional script (yes, I’m aware it’s a comedy, but wouldn’t it have to be funny to qualify as one?). It is hard to believe Kasdan helmed the hilarious Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.
Bad Teacher poses more questions than it cares to answer (and I’m not referring to the ending that was painfully inconsistent with the rest of the film or the plot holes). Firstly, why would anyone think that a film centered on the iniquities of a character would be entertaining? Could a wrinkly Diaz with her bark-like hide actually turn so many people on, even if it was in a film? And most importantly, whatever happened to comedy?