Bad Teacher Movie Review
In a summer blockbuster season that seems relatively promising for comedies, we find Bad Teacher, a comedy with an all-star cast centered around the still hot Cameron Diaz. Surrounded by several of the most underrated comedic talents, particularly Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel, does Bad Teacher live up to its title, or is it worth the price of admission?
In the film, Diaz plays Elizabeth Halsey, a school teacher who abandons her profession in order to pursue her real dream -- being a rich housewife who has her means paid for her by her husband. But when her fiancee ('s mother) realizes this, he dumps her, and Elizabeth must return to her job, all the while zealously pursuing her ultimate objective of essentially being able to do nothing.
At first, Elizabeth has lost all hope, phones in her work and increases her intake of alcohol and recreational drugs. But soon, she learns of a large sum of money that goes to the teacher with the highest test scores, and hatches a scheme to win the money in order to get breast implants, which she thinks will win over Justin Timberlake's character, Scott Delacorte -- who, as it turns out, is the heir to a high scale men's watch business. Observing all of this is Jason's Segel's character, Russell, who is of course infatuated with Elizabeth. Beyond the fact that Cameron Diaz is smoking hot, this is pretty inexplicable and at times a chore to justify by the writers.
The obvious center of the film is Diaz and her character. It's almost pushed as a coming of age story, of sorts, but none of it really makes any sense. Diaz is narcissistic and shallow, fine. She's a "Bad Teacher", also fine, there are plenty of those in most school systems in North America. But the writers try way too hard to sensationalize completely unrealistic plot points and gags in the movie, and it ends up falling pretty flat.
For instance, at one point, Elizabeth rubs an apple with poison ivy, which her nemesis, fellow teacher, and Scott's eventual girlfriend Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch, who does a good job in the film) in order to get on the chaperon list for the annual field trip, which Scott is a part of. Mere moments later, Scott and Elizabeth are inexplicably dry humping in a completely uncomfortable and unnecessary scene which takes Scott's character from quirky to disgusting, and really ruins any chance Elizabeth's character has to redeem herself.
And that's only one example. The whole film is riddled with inexplicable schemes and subplots that really make no sense whatsoever. While the actors do a good job of saving the film from being a total disaster (with a supporting cast that includes John Michael Higgins, Eric Stonestreet, Phyllis Smith from The Office and even a cameo by Kevin Butler himself, Jerry Lambert), the whole thing is just a jumble of nonsense that really won't make you laugh more than once or twice.
And to top it all off, there really is no resolution. Diaz's character just sort of goes from being negligent, malicious and borderline evil to not caring about shallow things anymore. Literally, almost out of nowhere. And there are plenty of opportunities to explain her turn, they just don't. Instead, they just kind of end the movie at the prerequisite 90 minutes and call it a day. It's honestly one of the weirdest plot resolutions I've ever seen.
And what's odder is that the writing really shouldn't be this bad. The writers, Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, have contributed to The Office during some of its best years, and while he has little experience directing on his own, director Jake Kasdan has worked a lot with Judd Apatow.
It's hard to really pinpoint exactly what went wrong with the film, but it's definitely within the realm of its writing. Maybe Diaz's character should have remained an anti-hero throughout, or maybe she shouldn't have been so "bad" off the bat. It's obvious that Timberlake's and Segel's characters were misused, and that the film failed to take advantage of a lot great character actors that had roles that were way too small.
So, what we're left with is an absolute mess of a movie that had way too much potential to be wasted like this. The premise was solid, the cast was solid and prior to its release, everything seemed to fall into place nicely. But nothing pans out, and nothing really makes sense in the movie when you start to think about it, and nothing really changes for its characters from exposition to denouement. The whole thing just feels like an effort in futility, and a waste of a potentially good plot and a set of great actors.
It's with utter disappointment that I give Bad Teacher a bad 4 out of 10.