I’m going to admit it right from the start, I wasn’t quite sure how this film would fare. The trailer and the premise didn’t really do much for me, and although I liked most of the other actors, Cameron Diaz has usually failed to live up to her early comedic promise.
But then I actually watched it, and I quite enjoyed myself. It’s funny, entertaining, and seemingly has zero morals. It really is what it says on the proverbial tin, and for that it should be applauded, flaws and all.
Diaz plays Elizabeth Halsey, forced back into her seemingly dead end teaching job against her wishes after her meal ticket fiancé finally realises he’s just being used for money.
Once there, she clashes with fellow teacher, Amy Squirrel (a delightfully nutty turn by Hot Fuzz’s Lucy Punch), fends off the advances of gym teacher, Russell (Jason Segel), and sets her sights on wealthy substitute teacher, Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), who, behind his innocent do-gooder façade, has a strong liking for large breasts, prompting Halsey to connive her way into the $9000 needed for a boob job. And that, folks, is pretty much it.
Yep, it’s a thin plot, but Bad Teacher isn’t a twisty thriller. It’s a concept, rather than a story, and by and large it does it well, with almost the right mixture of well-earned laughs, bad taste comments, and weird characters.
It also seems to be the next in an unofficial Bad franchise (following Bad Santa). I’m all for seemingly benign careers harbouring mavericks. Ideally, the next one will be Bad Zookeeper. That said, however, it’s definitely no Bad Santa, in case you were expecting that. It has several flaws which keep it from being a must-see.
What I did like was that the actors were pretty much uniformly excellent, although pretty much uniformly playing one-note characters. There really isn’t a whole heap of character development here, not even for Diaz’s lead. That said, though, it isn’t a bad thing.
Sometimes people don’t need to learn a lesson or grow as a person, instead staying the same shitty people they always have been.
Of particular note is Jason Segel, once again plying his winning everyman charm with just a slight edge. He’s loveable and relatable in most things he does, and Bad Teacher is no exception. As mentioned above, Lucy Punch is the main weirdo in this film, and her teacher, while never really being evil, gives the audience someone to dislike, as well as be a little bit nervous about. She has a face made for edgy comedy.
Timberlake plays, perhaps, the most one-note of all the characters, but does have a few good scenes, especially an ace one involving sharks and slaves, as well as proving he’s happy to send himself up and make a fool of himself. He also gets the film’s best line, or at least the one that made me laugh the most!
Finally, Diaz is good, although her character didn’t hit the levels of profanity or sociopathic tendencies I was hoping for. But nevertheless, having no real morals to speak of, or caring about having them. She seems to get away with all her behaviour in the film, and I’m not sure if that’s a brave or a stupid thing.
Bad Teacher is consistently funny, although never really reaching the heights you would hope it would. It constantly seems to hint that it might go further than it does, with the odd bad taste line here and there, but sadly, it ends up pulling a lot of its punches.
With an environment as ripe for an exploration of misery, alienation and downright nastiness as a school, it in fact manages to portray the place as quite a happy institution, with the worst event being a mistimed declaration of love for a girl which is quickly fixed.
I hate to accuse any film of being too nice, but I think it’s a valid criticism here. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of fun to be had, though. I would happily watch it again, and most likely laugh along again. Just not uproariously, like you should at these sorts of comedies.
While no classic, Bad Teacher has helped restore my faith in Hollywood comedy a little following the battering The Hangover Part 2 gave it. A lack of stand-out moments and instantly quotable lines make it merely good rather than excellent, but due to the cast and performances I can forgive it that.
Unfortunately, though, in a summer where Bridesmaids and Horrible Bosses are set to compete for the comedy crown, I can’t see Bad Teacher making the grade.