Bad Teacher

6 Jul

Title: Bad Teacher
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Jake Kasdan
Writers: Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky
Starring: 
Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel, Lucy Punch, John Michael Higgins, Molly Shannon, Eric Stonestreet, Phyllis Smith, Thomas Lennon
MPAA Rating: 
R, sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use
Runtime: 
92 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 
44%

 

This movie suffers from the inevitable comparisons it will draw to Bad Santa, the insanely funny film starring Billy Bob Thornton, and it suffers because people will obviously make them because of the word “bad” in the title, because of the R-rated comedy based on a foul-mouthed grown-up giving a bad name to a job that deals a lot with kids and is usually seen under a good light. The difference is that instead of Billy Bob Thornton we get Cameron Diaz, and much like he did, she shines in this role. The bad thing about this one is that this one never really gets to be as funny as it could have been, so when the comparisons ensue it’ll end up losing for not fully realizing its potential.

But still, if only for Ms. Diaz this deserves an opportunity, I think. I actually really like her in pretty much anything she does, and whether it’s comedy like the classic There’s Something About Mary or edgier supporting roles in films like the amazing Being John Malkovich, I always find something to like about her performances. Lately, however, I was fearing she would become the typical actress who suffers from doing voice-over work like she has in the Shrek franchise and only starring in not-really-funny rom-coms like The Holiday or What Happens in Vegas and the occasional horror flick like The Box. But Bad Teacher shows us she’s a star capable of doing stuff other than that with risky R-rated comedy roles and that fans will still follow her, not to mention that her next film is set to be Gambit, alongside Colin Firth and from a script by the Coen Bros. so I’m very excited about the path she’s seemingly taking.

But Cameron Diaz aside, Bad Teacher still has quite a bit going for it. Like I said, I don’t think it fully realized its potential, but it still had some very inspired and politically incorrect humor in it to make it something worth watching. And yes, some people will be quick to notice that this film is essentially a one-joke movie, and I may concede that being the case here, but the beauty of it is that it found enough spins on that one joke and enough ways to tell it again and again that for the short ninety minutes this one last it’ll be more than fine with you considering how many funny situations stem from that one bit. And that’s really why this one works, because it’s short, it doesn’t try to overstay its welcome and because of that it goes by in a breeze because you can see Ms. Diaz just totally tapping into that dirty tomboy you know she has inside and be hilarious just making jokes about drinking and swearing at children.

If you don’t know what Bad Teacher is all about let me fill you in. Ms. Diaz plays Elizabeth, this middle-school teacher who gets dumped by her wealthy fiancée and thus forced back into the world of teaching, a world that you can’t really fathom why this woman would have ever chosen as a path for herself. That’s when you see why the movie has the title it does, as Elizabeth is the worst possible teacher you could imagine, not really interested in teaching at all, getting stoned in class and swearing at her students, just waiting for the right wealthy man to come along and present her with the ticket out of that life. The right man, she thinks, comes into play as soon as a new teacher, Scott, arrives to work at the school. Scott, you see, comes from a very wealthy family and is just super well dressed and immediately Elizabeth sets her eyes on him. Scott is also played by Justin Timberlake, a guy I really like and respect a lot and who also happens to be Ms. Diaz’s real life ex-boyfriend.

The fact that Ms. Diaz and Mr. Timberlake used to date in real life really means nothing here, I’m just throwing it out there because it’s a fun tidbit because these two are way too cool for that to provide any gossipy or tense situation, and because I would love it if they were still together. The thing is that yeah, Elizabeth wants Scott, even though Amy, played by Lucy Punch, also does, so she has a rival in her, and even though Russell, played by the always genius Jason Segel, really likes Elizabeth but doesn’t have the family fortune Scott does. That supporting cast is also a big reason why Bad Teacher worked for me, Mr. Timberlake is really good at playing a fool and dialing back his actual confident personna, and Mr. Segel is obviously insanely good at just playing a nice guy who you can’t help but root for, not to mention that in the women’s side Ms. Punch and The Office‘s Phyllis Smith are also rock solid, and it’s the interactions Ms. Diaz has with these women that make Bad Teacher stand out from being just about a misbehaving woman who’ll do anything to get the guy.

Go see Bad Teacher to see why Cameron Diaz is just plain awesome and a perfect vulgar physical comedienne, to see Justin Timberlake play a stylish geek in a way only he can, and to see Jason Segel play the likable and charming everyman like has been doing for the past few years. It’s a very good movie, and no, it may not be the best R-rated comedy with a woman in a starring role right now because that’s Bridesmaids, and no, it may still not be as good as Bad Santa, its obvious inspiration was, but it’s still a very reliable comedy to go and have a good laugh at.

Grade: B

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One Response to “Bad Teacher”

  1. CMrok93 July 6, 2011 at 4:15 am #

    It does have some chuckles but there are just way too many punch lines that fall flat on their faces and not enough of Jason Segel’s effortless hilarity to balance out everything else that’s trying too hard. ‘Bad Teacher’ had the potential for greatness but ended up being pretty forgettable. Good Review! Check out mine when you can please!

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