The plot may not be as clever as a Bad Santa per se; but the blunt, crude & heartless dialogue keeps this predictable romp from going limp. And the timely placed fun bags, erections, drug use and dry-humping sequences served a purpose in providing the audience with a series of hearty chuckles.
Bad Teacher is exactly what you’d expect to be. It’s 92 minutes of characters saying what they’ve always wanted to, set in a middle-school atmosphere, where every teacher has their own unique persona. Cohesive storytelling & character development are tossed aside to make room for sudden bursts of F-bombs while degrading an innocent student. Although the balance of all these elements is about as smooth as a fat kid trying to run on an inclining treadmill, the script – which is a more-or-less series of comedic bits – is the kind of light, immature thinking we all need every now and then.
Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) somehow became a middle-school teacher in a suburban Chicago school. She cares nothing about the students or staff; and the only reason she went for this gig is to land a rich guy to put a ring on her finger and spoil her self-imposed trophy-wife booty (sounds like my town). Her plan seemed to be working just fine until she is kicked to the curb by her recent loaded fiancée. Left with absolutely nothing, she has to move into a shanty apartment with some guy from Craigslist (Eric Stonestreet) – who still wears zumba pants – and crawls back to her teaching job that she recently ditched.
Completely miserable, she avoids dealing with the faculty and simply plays movies such as Dangerous Minds, for her students, all while taking shots of bourbon from her desk drawer and smoking some “medicinal” marijuana in her POS car. She’s not completely unmotivated though, for her goal to land another sugar daddy revolves around earning roughly 10K to buy a new pair of tits (very resourceful). And for whatever reason, she is cool sharing this with the other teachers: the naïve Lynn (Phyllis Smith from The Office); the secure down-to-earth, gym-teacher (Jason Segel); and the over-bubbly, star faculty member in Ms. Squirrel (Lucy Punch).
She begins to perk up a bit more at her duties when a new substitute – with family money – begins teaching in Mr. Delacorte (Justin Timberlake). Trying to lure the sophisticated, sensitive, well-dressed guy becomes her main priority. At this point, the plot shifts to seeing if Elizabeth will be able to keep up the charade – with Ms. Squirrel watching her every move – while trying to seduce the new teach. And enhance her chest, of course.
Cameron Diaz doesn’t necessarily rock this stage as Billy Bob Thornton did as a drunken Santa. (She does rock some sexy attire though). She’s more of a solid riffing rhythm guitarist who compliments all the other players quite well, and even gets to do a few lead solos that will resonate with audience. The supporting players are the ones that steal a lot of the show here. Jason Segel is the drummer in this band. He doesn’t have much stage presence, but whenever his “instrument” is featured, he brings the house down with his pitch perfect delivery. Taking the helm as the closest thing to a front man, well, in this case, woman, is Lucy Punch. Now a few “lyrics” do not get the reaction from the crowd the writers were hoping for. That said, her spontaneous performance ignited every scene she was a part of. (Think I just described Motley Crue by the way).
Since there’s a true musician in this cast, Justin Timberlake had the hardest challenge of all…looking so un-cool. It’s tough to completely buy his character, because he naturally has a stigma that surrounds from his other endeavors. The guy makes it work despite being overshadowed by all the other relatable performances.
A lot of the sequences – and some of the characters to a certain extent – were missed opportunities. A butch teacher (Jillian Armenante) and the scantly used Principal (John Michael Higgins) could have been placed in more creative moments. The fail-safe of this script was to just have these, and all the above mentioned performers, to enact a tourette’s-like episode and start cursing or struggle with Diaz‘s character‘s obnoxious antics. It is funny, because it happens in the environment of a school. But the viewer can kind of see it coming, so these actions aren’t all that shocking as they were intended to be.
This script isn’t clichéd as it could have been and the raucous dialogue made sure it wouldn’t falter in that respect. Having said that, the intelligence of the scenarios Cameron Diaz is positioned in (no pun) is perhaps too fundamental and could have been better. The reason they work is because her character doesn’t lose the R-rated edge even with the foreshadowed themes the flick is obviously building toward. She still swears like a pirate and her unapologetic persona keeps the viewer casually waiting for what she’ll do next. The one-liners hit more than they miss (barely), but there is an awkward silence on a few of them. As in, not funny at all. As in why were they left in the final cut? Solution: Quick, pan to hard-on or somebody swear.
Overall, Bad Teacher isn’t destined to be a comedy treasure as the trailer suggested. The jagged, under-developed script sealed the deal on that. The flick will find a place in people’s minds though, thanks to its desire to stay “Bad” the entire way through.
RATING: 3 out of 5