In Bad Teacher, Cameron Diaz plays Elizabeth Halsey, a gold-digger of a teacher looking to quit her job and leech off of her rich soon-to-be husband. However, the movie opens with said fiance dumping her in the presence of his overbearing mother, effectively ruining Elizabeth’s every aspiration. She returns to her 7th grade teaching job, where she plays films like Stand and Deliver and Lean On Me instead of actually teaching. She meets a new substitute, Scott Delacorte, played by Justin Timberlake, who is cute, appallingly dumb and the heir to a wrist-watch fortune. Elizabeth immediately begins trying to con him but soon learns he’s attracted to big-breasted women. Refusing to let this one slip by, she tries desperately to collect $10G for a boob job while skating through her classes, rebuffing the advances of Russell the gym teacher- the charming Jason Segel- and dodging the creative efforts of the sickeningly sweet/clearly unstable “across-the-hall-mate,” Amy Squirrel, played by the very funny Lucy Punch, who’s trying to get her sacked.
That, my friends, is the entire script. What’s sad is they could have done so much more with it. If only it were a bit worse, it could have really worked. Diaz played her role well but her character was too awful to be likable and not quite bad enough to be hilarious. Instead, she was mildly entertaining and occasionally funny. No explanation of how she even ended up being a teacher was given and her back story consisted of nothing more than she was dumped be her fiance and now lives in a crummy apartment with a loser roommate she found on Craig’s List. (The loser is played by Modern Family‘s Eric Stonestreet, who got a few laughs but was greatly under-used.) They could have seized the opportunity to delve into Elizabeth’s personal life on Christmas break, when she goes on a booze-run and bumps into one of her students and his mother (Molly Shannon in an underwhelming cameo), who invites her to join them for their holiday dinner. Instead, they went for a couple cheap laughs and cut the scene short.
I do not blame Diaz or any of the actors for the film’s shortcomings. The cast did the best they could with the lackluster script. Timberlake and John Michael Higgins, who played the dolphin-obsessed principal, effectively served their characters’ purposes but failed to really shine. Lucy Punch and Jason Segel were the stand-outs in this flick, and, together, they carried most of the movie. The writing was clearly to blame along with the movie’s director, Jake Kasdan (of Orange County and Dewey Cox fame), who could have really pushed the envelope with this and made it a raunchy, jaw-dropping black comedy (think Bad Santa), but instead left scene after scene a missed opportunity.
Overall, I’d give this a 3 stars out of 5 rating. It did make me laugh several times and I thought Diaz, Punch and Segel did the best they could with the material given them. I guess I just left feeling disappointed that with the talented cast and cameos (Stonestreet, Shannon, and Thomas Lennon, of Reno 911), it wasn’t the riot it could have been.