Unreal Movie Review: Bad Teacher

2.5 out of 5 stars

Ah, the public education system. It’s a highly flawed institution in America that needs serious overhaul as inept teachers, careless parents and misbehaved children all combine together to make sure test scores are low, and the bar for success is even lower. At least a lot of the time. With all its problems it would seem to be ripe for parody, and so does Bad Teacher deliver on that potential?

Nah, it’s just about a hot teacher who swears and drinks and gets high a lot.

But whatever. Not everything has to be subtle satire, and on occasion it’s alright to let loose with pure crass that serves no ulterior purpose. No brilliant writing, no touching moments, barely a life lesson learned, but Bad Teacher gets a passing grade. But only just.

It reminds of a similar movie, with a similar title. Bad Santa will stick in your mind throughout Bad Teacher, as both films follow an asshole (Billy Bob Thornton, Cameron Diaz) who has a job that forces them to work with children (Santa, teacher) despite their obvious disdain for the little shits. They curse and booze and generally are terrible, terrible people, but through their dickish-ness, accidentally help out a few of them along the way.

Oh hey, it’s the girl from Justified!

Diaz may be easier on the eyes than Billy Bob, but she plays just as despicable of a human being. Elizabeth Halsey is a seventh grade teacher about to retire to go marry a rich bachelor, but when he calls her out for golddigging and ends it, she’s left with nothing, and forced back to the school she was happy to escape from.

Upon her return, she meets Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), a dweeby sub who happens to be loaded, as his family owns a watchmaking company. He’s right up her alley, but when she learns that his recent ex was a gorgeous supermodel with double Ds, she believes herself to need a boob job to win his affections. Furthermore, her path to a life of leisure is hampered by rival goody-goody teacher Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch), bent on stealing Scott and reporting her every misdeed, and also Russell Gettis, the school’s gym teacher who hits on her at every turn.

Elizabeth starts out the year showing her class a movie every day for weeks while she sleeps on her desk, but once it’s announced that there’s a cash prize for the teacher whose students get the highest test scores, she starts cracking the whip, as her boob job money is in sight.

I can’t even imagine Cameron Diaz with giant boobs. Oh wait, I just did. Glorious.

You know, I saw this movie about a half hour ago, and I remember laughing, but I can’t quite remember why. There’s some funny moments between Diaz and The Office‘s Phyllis Smith who plays a soft-spoken teacher. Thomas Lennon also shows up in a funny role as a prep test overseer, and Diaz’s Craigslist roommate is Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet in full butch mode, which was a sight to see in itself.

There are funny parts, generally related to Elizabeth’s complete disregard for any human being but herself, but it’s always strange to root for an anti-hero in comedies like this. I had the same problem with Bad Santa, as it’s just not a natural feeling to cheer for the villains. You kind of just want to punch them.

Though there are funny moments, the plot is predictable to the point of annoyance. Do you think Diaz won’t learn a lesson about helping kids? Do you think she’ll follow through with the unnecessary boob job? Do you think she’ll pick the personality defective Timberlake over the endearing Segel? For a movie attempting to turn comedy conventions on its head, casting someone like Diaz in the titular role, it doesn’t do much to innovate in terms of plot.

So while watching Cameron Diaz wear Daisy Dukes and spray herself with a hose is entertainment in its purest form, there’s not much to Bad Teacher other than a few quick R-rated laughs. If that’s all you want, fantastic, you might enjoy it, but don’t expect a whole lot more.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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