After being dumped by her sugar daddy, clothes and money conscious junior high teacher Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) begins to woo new colleague Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake) from a well to do family. But Scott is drawn to fellow teacher Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch), a dedicated and pedantic teacher who launches a campaign against Elizabeth, while the latter tries several devious methods of raising money for breast enhancement surgery she believes will get her into the lifestyle she wishes to get accustomed to. It is gym teacher Russell Gettis (Jason Segel) who tries to get Elizabeth's attention.
Review by Louise Keller:
Cameron Diaz manages to make Bad Teacher much more enjoyable than its mediocre script deserves with her immensely likeable presence and natural comedic timing. Not nearly as good as Bad Santa (2003) in which Billy Bob Thornton played a drinking, fornicating and cursing Santa, here Diaz plays a teacher who is simply treading water until she manages to snare a full time guy to pay her bills. It is just a matter of tolerating the kids, their parents and her co-workers and making life as painless for herself as possible - at everyone else's expense. The top cast comprising Justin Timberlake, Lucy Punch and Jason Segel also contribute to elevate the action and make it badder and funnier than it otherwise would be - or deserves.
Diaz knows how to milk a scene - whether it is her deadpan manner as her Liz displays utter disinterest to her class or enthusiastically participates in the fund-raising 7th grade car wash wearing tiny shorts and bare midriff. Her enthusiasm comes only when she discovers there is potential to line her pocket with money she needs for the breast augmentation she craves. Big breasts are the answer, she thinks, to finding a rich man and every opportunity that offers dollars is an opportunity for the filmmakers to milk another unlikely situation and aim for potential laughs.
When Liz spies Scott Delacorte (Timberlake), the new teacher and heir to the Delacorte clock empire, she immediately identifies him as a desirable potential meal-ticket. But not without a fight with Amy Squirrel (Punch), who is every bit as ambitious as Liz but goes about her mission in a subtle, saccharine way. Punch steals many a scene, hamming it up beautifully and Segel is solid and a good counter-puncher as the gym-teacher who makes a play for Liz.
There are some funny ideas as the foul-mouthed Liz discovers there is a cash bonus for the teacher whose class performs best and although there is no scene or scenes that stand out as highlights or the funniest, the accumulation of Diaz in fine form manages to save the film and makes it almost worth going to class.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Good comedies that work start somewhere dark, or at least serious, and build the humour from character and meaning. Where Bad Teacher falls down is in its flippant approach to an idea that doesn't have any traction beyond a TV skit, about a morally bankrupt teacher in high heels trying to pay her way to a boob job.
While Cameron Diaz is a terrific screen presence, she can only do so much with material that is so limited in imagination and grounding. Her Elizabeth is a caricature we don't take seriously as a real character; her actions are those of a cartoon cutout. This infects the entire film, and helps to rob much of it of any credibility.
Even the juicy catfighting between Elizabeth and a feisty, committed Lucy Punch as Amy Squirrell the Miss Perfect of the teacher's common room is missing the essential oil of truth. In fact nothing gels, not even the spineless characterisation of new teacher Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), who is whisked off his feet by Amy, right from under Elizabeth's nose.
It's left to Jasen Segel as gym teacher Russel Gettis to inject some authenticity into the film as the quiet, determined observer who sees something worthwhile in Elizabeth. Not sure what, though ...
John Michael Higgins as Principal Wally Snur is also a credit to the film, constantly caught in no man's land with Amy and Elizabeth scheming against each other.
Bad Teacher certainly isn't in the class of Bad Santa (2003) in which Billy Bob Thornton plays the title role, subverting the traditional figure of kindness into a drunken slob who finds redemption the hard way. Here the traditional figure of knowledge is not so much subverted as detonated, but to no great effect, without the pathos or the dark whimsy, try as the filmmakers might.
Published first in the Sun-Herald
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BAD TEACHER (M)
CAST: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Lucy Punch, Jason Segel, Phyllis Smith, John Michael Higgins, Dave Allen, Jillian Armenante, Matthew J. evans
PRODUCER: Jimmy Miller
DIRECTOR: Jake Kasdan
SCRIPT: Gene Stupnisky, Lee Eisenberg
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alar Kivilo
EDITOR: Tara Timpone
MUSIC: Michael Andrews
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jefferson Sage
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 21, 2011