More so than any other genre of movie, comedies are what I’ve found to be the most divisive among movie audiences. Everyone has their own brand of humor and enjoys something different. With that in mind, if you are the kind of person who has a good natured chuckle at safe, politically correct humor where no one gets hurt, you might want to skip Bad Teacher.
The movie Bad Teacher follows the antics of Elizabeth Halsey (played by Cameron Diaz), a teacher who is just a mean person. In the movie Bad Teacher, Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) quits her job as a teacher only to find that her rich fiancé is dumping her because of her gold digging ways. With no other recourse, Elizabeth returns to teaching, and unprofessional is an understatement to her academic approach (her lesson plan is putting on a movie for students, and, say, napping or drinking). The main conflict in the movie, Bad Teacher, is that the main character is trying to attract a wealthy man, and she sees getting cosmetic surgery as her way to accomplish her goal. Throughout Elizabeth Halsey’s various money-making schemes (car wash, anyone?), she draws the notice of Amy Squirrel (played by Lucy Punch), another teacher who is the complete opposite of Diaz’s character. Bright-eyed, optimistic and friendly, Ms. Squirrel is the counterpoint to Elizabeth, almost painfully so. When Scott Delacorte (played by Cameron Diaz’s ex, Justin Timberlake), a wealthy, kind, and sickeningly sweet gentleman joins the teaching staff, Elizabeth sets her sights on him. However, Russell Gettis (played by Jason Segel), the gym teacher, has his own attraction towards Elizabeth.
One of the complaints a lot of people will have about Bad Teacher is that our “protagonist,” Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz), is simply, not a good person. There is no sugar coating it; Diaz’s character is mean. The character of Elizabeth Halsey is a shameless gold digger, doesn’t care about her students, and she has many destructive vices. When I write these reviews, I try to keep it clean, which is really limiting my choice of adjectives to describe Diaz’s character.
That said, Cameron Diaz is on point in the lead role as Elizabeth Halsey. Her performance in Bad Teacher is one of the best I’ve seen in a comedy in a long while. It is refreshing to see honest, brutal comedy delivered in Bad Teacher, especially when it is delivered well. Justin Timberlake and Lucy Punch have performances that are more or less mirror images of each other; very upbeat, kind-hearted and corny. One of the tricks in a movie like Bad Teacher is to have characters that are too nice, so that the audience will end up identifying with, and rooting for the protagonist by default, even if they are awful. Both Timberlake and Punch get that job done very well. Rounding out the cast of Bad Teacher is Jason Segel. If you are familiar with Jason Segal from Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the television hit sit-com How I Met Your Mother, then you know what you are getting with Segal’s performance, and it works in the movie Bad Teacher.
The film plays up a lot of shock value, such as a running bit throughout where Elizabeth explains the circumstances of the breakup of her engagement, and it feels genuine. A disappointment in Bad Teacher: so many times this mean-spirited humor tries to be edgy without pushing any boundaries, and ends up falling far short of the mark. These days everyone seems afraid of their shadow, with political correctness running rampant. I could not help but appreciate the humor in Bad Teacher. It is not a bad thing, and comedy is the first genre to get skewered time and time again for being offensive. This ends up diluting the whole genre since people have to walk on eggshells because there are actually consequences that go with it certain brands of comedic writing and performance, such as in the movie Bad Teacher.
My own tastes and opinions aside, Bad Teacher is a tight comedy that mostly delivers as promised. The comedic momentum remains strong in Bad Teacher throughout the length of the movie, though as most comedies go, things can tend get a bit silly as far as plotline.
If you are the kind of person who enjoys raunchy, brutal humor, Bad Teacher is worth seeing. Or, if you are a fan of Cameron Diaz or Justin Timberlake, then hey, they are in a movie together.
Rated R. Runtime 92 min. Theatrical release 6/24/2011.
PR.com Rating: C+