- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Columbia Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
till waiting for the first good comedy of the summer? Well, you’ll have to be a little more patient, because “Bad Teacher” isn’t quite the gut-busting laugh factory that we all hoped it might be. The film isn't nearly as naughty as it thinks, because despite rushing out of the gate with plenty of filth and vulgarity, “Bad Teacher” eventually slinks back into a more reserved and formulaic revenge comedy that doesn’t really earn any laughs so much as force them down your throat. It’s as if the spirit of the Farrelly brothers has taken over the body of director Jake Kasdan, and anyone who’s seen their recent movies knows that isn’t a good thing.
Cameron Diaz stars as Elizabeth Halsey, an uncouth and self-centered gold digger who’s forced to return to her job at John Adams Middle School after her wealthy fiancé kicks her to the curb. Perfectly content with skating through the school year by doing the bare minimum, Elizabeth spends her days showing her students movies, getting drunk and high during class, and flirting with hunky new substitute Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake). But Elizabeth is under the impression that Scott isn’t interested in her because she doesn’t have a big rack, so she begins saving up for a boob job – a costly procedure that suddenly becomes a lot more attainable when she learns that the teacher whose kids score highest on the upcoming state exam gets a bonus check. When Elizabeth starts making big changes in her classroom, however, she attracts the suspicion of an overenthusiastic teacher (Lucy Punch) who will do whatever it takes to expose Elizabeth as the bad apple she really is.
Unfortunately, there's so much wrong with the basic setup of “Bad Teacher” that it never really gets a chance to be as funny as it could be. For starters, there’s no way that a woman like Elizabeth would ever keep her job at a school like John Adams. The principal (played by John Michael Higgins) keeps hearing rumors about all the terrible things that Elizabeth is doing in her classroom, and yet he never once thinks to stop by and check up on her. And if Elizabeth hates teaching so much, why in the world is she doing it? It’s not like becoming a teacher is as easy as getting a job as a department store Santa Claus, nor is it the best way to meet wealthy suitors, but the audience is never given any hint as to what inspired her to become an educator in the first place. Granted, sometimes you just have to suspend disbelief, but comedy is a lot funnier when it’s based in reality, and there’s nothing particularly genuine about “Bad Teacher.”
There’s also no one in the movie to care about. While “Bad Santa” was based on a similar premise, the reason that Billy Bob Thorton was such a likeable asshole was because, even at his worst, he still seemed capable of kindness. Elizabeth, on the other hand, only does nice stuff for people if it serves her own agenda, and though Cameron Diaz tries her damndest to wring some laughs out of playing a selfish bitch, the character is simply too mean-spirited to root for. It doesn't help that she's been saddled with a script (written by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, the "Office" duo responsible for the god-awful “Year One”) that always goes for the cheap, easy joke.
Diaz and the rest of the cast deserve better. Justin Timberlake doesn't have a whole lot to do in a role that's essentially the male equivalent of a blonde bimbo, while Jason Segel is used too sparingly as the school gym teacher – perhaps the only consistently funny person in the film. Thank God for Lucy Punch, then, who takes what could have been a rather annoying character and turns her into someone who's not only fun to watch but even worth rooting for in the end. Punch is such a dynamic comic actress that it’s only a matter of time before she’s upgraded to leading lady status, and casting her was the one thing Jake Kasdan did right in a comedy that fails to make being bad funny.
Unrated Edition Blu-ray Review:
Much like the movie itself, the two-disc Blu-ray release for “Bad Teacher” isn’t nearly as good as it looks. The whole craze of including unrated cuts has become so pointless that I’m not really sure why studios do it anymore, but Sony has nevertheless offered up both the theatrical and unrated version of the movie (which runs five minutes longer) for your viewing pleasure. There are also a handful of deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a bit where Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel goof off on set, as well as some short featurettes about the car wash scene and what it takes to be a good teacher. Nothing too exciting here folks, but at least Sony was kind enough to include a DVD copy too.