Bad Teacher Directed by: Jake Kasdan Cast: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Lucy Punch, Jason Segel Running Time: 1 hr 32 mins Rating: R Release Date: June 24, 2011
PLOT: A teacher (Diaz) doesn't care about the kids. When she gets dumped by her fiance, she begins to woo another teacher (Timberlake). This puts her at odds against a fellow teacher (Punch)
WHO'S IT FOR? Do you think Diaz is hilarious? Will you watch Timberlake do anything? Those two things will definitely help in this comedy.
EXPECTATIONS: I was pretty pumped. The school system has plenty of material to make light of, especially with an R rating. Plus, Timberlake should fit in really well with the right comedy, since his "Saturday Night Live" skills have yet to be tapped into on the big screen.
Cameron Diaz as Liz Halsey: Um, I don't think Diaz is that funny. I mean, she's not a comedian. She didn't make us laugh in the classic (yes, classic) There's Something About Mary. It was her reaction to things that made us laugh. She played it pretty straight. Not here. She's got the awful mouth, smokes pot in the school parking lot, and really wants money for a boob job. Yeah, a boob job. That's supposed to be enough motivation for us. It's not. But that's simply because Diaz isn't funny enough. There was something desperate in this character that really isn't explored, and I think it's accidental. It's this, the movie treats Liz as a hot goddess. The close-ups, and there are a ton of them, show her beauty fading. Yet, there's never a mention of this being her last chance to land a man, or anything like that. I don't even know what age she's supposed to be. I wasn't brought in by her beauty or her passion (boobs and a rich man), so the only thing left is the comedy, and that doesn't happen enough from this character. Score: 4
Justin Timberlake as Scott Delacorte: Sigh. As soon as I heard this character, I knew there would be a problem. Timberlake is faking it. He's performing, not acting. I was really hoping this wasn't going to happen. He talks in a sing-song perfect tone, he's pro-life, he loves dry humping, he comes from money, and eating Ethiopian food is his idea of a crazy time. Keep in mind, this is also who Liz considers a catch. Do we want these two to end up together? No, we don't even care. So once again, it comes down to funny. Timberlake doesn't bring any sense of reality to this character, so it just doesn't work. The perfect example is when Period 5 (the teacher band) performs. It never feels like Scott is a bad songwriter/singer, it just feels like Timberlake is performing poorly, hoping for a laugh. Score: 4
Jason Segel as Russell Gettis: Dear lord, seriously? Segel nails this Russell character. It's to the point where I wanted this to be a clear-cut ensemble, simply about the insanity of being a teacher. Forget plot. Just let me hang out in the school with Russell. He's a gym teacher who is totally content in life. He even makes hanging out with Liz fun, mainly because she turns off her stupid quest to land a rich man for just a little while. Russell also feels real. That's something that is totally necessary for the comedy to truly come out. Score: 8
Rest of Cast: Let me reiterate, there is definitely enough quality actors in this film, and they should have turned the focus on the SCHOOL as the main character. Lucy Punch gives her best performance as Amy Squirrel. She's the perfect teacher who desperately needs to be the perfect teacher. Punch does "on the verge of losing it" very well. Phyllis Smith ("The Office") plays Lynn and is the type of teacher who wants to hang out with the cool kids, but doesn't quite know how to fit in. Again, this character is great. After that things slip a little, John Michael Higgins is the principal and doesn't get as many laughs as he should. You know who's awful? The kids. Seriously bad actors. Score: 6
TALKING: Are f-bombs funny just because they are coming from an unexpected source (in this case, a teacher)? The answer for this film is simply no. While a couple of lines will shock you, like Liz talking about trying to sleep with NBA players, they won't have you rolling in the aisles. Liz seems to give decent, direct dating advice, but that leads to such an obvious (and pretty stupid) new job for her at the end of the film. Score: 5
SIGHTS: Again, are you showing me Liz is trying to hold on to her beauty? Is that why you have so many close-ups of her face? The car wash scene where Liz sluts it up to take some money is poorly shot. The dry humping gag didn't do it for me because I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. Throwing dodge balls at kids is kind of funny, but Billy Madison did that better. Score: 5
SOUNDS: "Teacher, Teacher" from 38 Special starts things off. It's fine, and a decent fit. Any chance to hear "Gangsta's Paradise" is good with me. Timberlake's song didn't work for me (as a joke). The musical score seems like something that should actually be in a kid's movie. It's way too playful and cute for the edge this film tries to create. Score: 5
BEST SCENE: It's quick, but when Russell yells at a kid about Michael Jordan being better than LeBron James, it's hilarious.
ENDING: It's painfully obvious what the new job will be for Liz. It's a joke that doesn't work. At least I don't think I'll be watching Bad Counselor any time soon.
QUESTIONS: Does Bad Teacher want me to actually believe this could happen?
REWATCHABILITY: No thanks. If I flip to it on TV, and Segel is on screen, I'll stop for a second. Otherwise, I'm moving on.
Kasdan didn't direct Bad Santa, but it seems like he thought he was channeling it. Take a nice idea (Santa or a teacher) and make it raunchy, filthy and funny. One main problem with that; Billy Bob Thornton made it work. I don't think Cameron Diaz is capable.
Liz is after boobs and a man. It's hard to get behind that. Especially when the man is Scott, who also isn't likeable. So we need the funny. Unfortunately, that comes from other sources. Segel, Punch and Smith make the most out of their supporting roles, but this is clearly a starring vehicle for Diaz. For a film set in a school, I didn't think there was nearly enough laughs coming from exaggerated situations that could happen in a classroom. Liz spends the first half of the school year (a guess) showing movies. Every single day. She shows Stand and Deliver, Lean on Me, Dangerous Minds and even Scream. Somehow this takes months. One movie she didn't show was School of Rock because it would have been painfully obvious that Jack Black and his chemistry with the kids works, especially by comparison. It also appears she only has one group of kids even though she's teaching middle school. It's like the people making Bad Teacher are as lazy as Liz.
Fixing the main character would have helped, maybe like this. Liz wants money/security. When she gets dumped by her fiance, she could have taken her misplaced revenge out on her teaching job and the poor pay. Hating the system of teaching could have been the motivation the audience could get behind. That's how you can make an unlikeable/brazen character someone you can root for.
Bad Teacher needed to do it's homework, but the film seems to have no interest in getting an "A."
FINAL SCORE: 5/10