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Grab Bag Review: ‘Bad Teacher’ Flunks Out On Comedy And Puts Cameron Diaz In The Dunce Cap


Upfront Impressions: Bad jokes, bad language, bad acting (Cameron Diaz), good acting (Lucy Punch), and a slow pace.

Comedy is objective and raunchy comedies are an acquired taste. I am a big fan of comedy and find myself renting and viewing comedies that most people dismiss as terrible or dreadful. They are not all winners, and sometimes that is what makes them the best kind to watch. I like R rated comedies. They push the limits and most of the time can achieve a lot of laughter without having to go to dick, fart and poop jokes. So, when I first heard about Bad Teacher, I thought it could actually be a good concept. Then I watched the trailer, and realized right upfront that this was not going to be the movie I was hoping it would be. And of course, I knew back then that it would end up on my list to review. So here we are.

Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) is a teacher who has spent the last year just skating by waiting for the end of the school year to come, knowing that she would be marrying a wealthy man during the summer and not have to work again for the rest of her life. As we all know, that isn’t how things are going to work out for her. She is dumped by her fiancé and must now return to teaching. Her new goal is to get breast implants and land herself another rich boyfriend to marry and take care of her.

When she returns to school, she meets a young and handsome substitute teacher, Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake). Upon finding out that he is an heir to a famous watch manufacturer, she decides to win his attention, while also raising enough money to get herself a new pair of boobs. In Elizabeth’s mind, getting the enhancement will increase her chances of winning over Scott. Unfortunately, Scott falls for Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch), an upbeat and cheery teacher who is also onto Elizabeth’s desire to nab Scott Delacorte, as well as Elizabeth’s terrible teaching, drug use and stolen answers to the state testing.

Jason Segel plays the P.E. teacher, Russell Gettis. Russell has an interest in Elizabeth, which I found odd from the beginning. He knows full well that she is superficial, rude and a gold digger. Yet, he somehow continues to play it cool and work his way into a possibility of dating her. Maybe because he thinks she is unattainable and a challenge, or maybe because she is a hooker with a heart of gold. Either way, it didn’t work for me. The entire movie, he is around her and just waiting for that time that she will want to date him.

Cameron Diaz is not a good actress. I don’t know how else to put that. She isn’t good in this, and not very good in most other films. She did a decent job as the ditsy one in Charlie’s Angels and probably did her best as a ragged looking animal lover in Being John Malkovich. Something About Mary was a great film, but not because of Cameron Diaz, more because of the Farrelly Brothers, and a fantastic supporting cast. This film did not have great writing and the cast was just okay.

Which brings me to Lucy Punch, who in my mind has a heck of a lot more talent than Cameron Diaz. Lucy Punch made her role much more comedic than what was written. She gave a great, once was a valley girl who is now educated, type of vocal accent along with some hilarious facial expressions. There is one scene with just her and the principal (John Michael Higgens) where she is making these extremely goofy faces, out of frustration from her conversation with the principal, that I found extremely hilarious. Whether that was written in the script or just something she did, I don’t know. Either way, it worked for me and I think she could have a really good comedic future if the right project came her way. She absolutely outshined anything Diaz did on screen.

Back to the movie. Elizabeth suddenly has an epiphany at the end of the second act, which changes how she views people, and men in particular. For me, that scene was equal to when Billy Madison put water on his pants and made sure all the other kids knew that it was cool to pee your pants. It meant nothing, and was a very weak turning point for the character. She spends the entire movie not caring about what other people think of her, using foul language, smoking pot, using her sexuality as a tool, embezzling money, stealing test answers, and using each and every person for her own gain. And now, all of the sudden, she is a good person. At the expense of Amy Squirrel, who was probably the only person around her that was just trying to show Elizabeth for who she was.

I never was rooting for Elizabeth in this movie. I didn’t identify with her, or think her bad behavior was comical. I was rooting for Amy Squirrel for most of the movie. If that is how I was suppose to feel, then this was a success. But, I have a feeling we were suppose to be laughing with Elizabeth the entire time, at how crazy she was and how much of a bad ass she could be. Instead I thought she was a moron and had no idea why Russell would want anything to do with someone who is emotionally and verbally unattractive. The movie never gave me a reason to root for Russell to end up with Elizabeth.

I know some of you may be wanting to know about Justin Timberlake. Well, he did okay. All things considered. He played a good run of the mill good Christian boy who is not afraid to have sex with his clothes on. Other than that, I would strongly suggest finding anything he has done on SNL and watch that instead. As for Jason Segel, he is always just Jason Segel. Nothing new here. He brings the funny in his Jason Segel way and doesn’t deviate from it that much. Probably just a paycheck to say he worked with Cameron Diaz, and move on to bigger and better things. Like working with Muppets.

The movie dragged on so long and gave me so few laughs, I couldn’t wait for it to end. I spent most of the movie waiting for Lucy Punch to return on screen to save the comedy. Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family) and Thomas Lennon (Reno 911) have small roles in the film that lend more comedy than anything Diaz was putting out there. You can also play the fun game that I like to do in Judd Apatow movies called, “spot the Paul Fieg.” Yeah, it’s brief, but he is there and you can then chug your beer.

Don’t waste your money on seeing it in the theater. I would go as far to say wait for HBO. Maybe rent it when it comes out if you want to know what Lucy Punch has to offer in the comedy field. But, I still think you can wait. Watch her in Hot Fuzz or fast forward through the terrible Dinner for Schmucks until you get to her parts. Did I mention she’s the best part of the film?

2 out of 5

About the author

Michael Cantrell

Film enthusiast and observer of miscellaneous web findings. Living and working in the Inland Empire, Southern California. Acquired a Bachelor's degree in Television/Film, which is sitting in a file cabinet hidden from the world. General film interests are with independent films, comedies, science fiction and drama. Contributor over at http://whennerdsattack.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=593327042 Sam Olecki

    Thank you for saving my time with this one!

    • Anonymous

      You’re welcome. Always glad to be of service.

  • Roncantrell

    Cameron is nice to look at but since I heard how she was in high school in the LBC I don’t really like her.  She is rich from “Something about Mary” and still cashing in on her looks.
     

  • James Fitzpatrick

    I wish I had read your review before I saw this piece of crap. I think you are being generous with your 2 Bags cause I don’t even think it was worth that.

  • Dirtywithclass

    Dammm…i was hoping this would be good, but i guess not. Although i don’t think Cameron is a bad actress(I think she was good in The Box)