- Movie Rating -

Bad Teacher (2011)

| June 24, 2011 | 0 Comments

Bad Teacher is an aimless misfire of a comedy with few laughs, little plot and a cast of undefined and uninteresting characters. It’s the kind of movie that you watch with bored disinterest as you wait for something interesting to develop and eventually find yourself laughing at something just to break the tension.

And yet, nestled in this unholy dreck is a performance by Cameron Diaz that I admit made me smile. Diaz has always been the sunniest of performers, a happy-go-lucky beauty with a smile that’s as warm and pleasing as a spring day. But more than that, she’s a fearless comedienne in a way that many of her contemporaries are not. I always admire actors who aren’t afraid to look like a jerk.

In Bad Teacher she plays the jerk role for all it’s worth. She plays Elizabeth Halsey, a shameless gold digger whose goal in life is to marry a bozo millionaire who will keep her in the lap of luxury for the rest of her days. She supplements her waiting period by working as a high school English teacher and, as the movie opens, is leaving the job to marry her fiancé. Unfortunately he – and his mother – break off the engagement, which means she has to return to the school and start all over again.

What to do? She figures that the best way to land a man is to beef up her assets – a boob job! But she needs the cash, so she reluctantly returns to her teaching job where she will work until she gets the money. What follows is – or rather should be – just an exercise in bad behavior. She’s got plenty of that, including getting through her classes by putting on inspirational teacher movies like Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds and eventually The Faculty while taking a nap at the desk.

A clever plot element kicks in later that the most valuable and dedicated teacher will get an award at the end of the year which comes with a cash bonus. Ha-HA! Just the solution she needs. With that Liz throws herself into her job, and becomes strict and extremely demanding which trying to get her class through “To Kill a Mockingbird.” That scene has some energy, but it goes nowhere. The whole movie is like that. Diaz is game, but the movie gives her nothing to work with.

The supporting characters are all underwritten. The school principal (John Michael Higgins) is an aimless clown. The love interest (Justin Timberlake) is a clueless dolt. The happy-go-lucky rival teacher (Lucy Punch) is annoying. Diaz’s brother (Noah Munck) is a coward. And the students are hardly in the movie at all. Notice that these characters are played by some really talented comedians, but they have nothing to do.

There’s a pointless love triangle in which Liz catches the eye of the Timberlake character while the gym teacher (Jason Segal) seems perfect for her.  The Timberlake character is as dull as desert sand.  Segal is really kind of charming here but he isn’t given nearly enough to do.

The movie presents scenes that seem to come out of nowhere and have no payoff.  Abruptly a scene pops up with Diaz and Timberlake dry-humping while on a class fieldtrip.  There is not set-up so you wonder if there was a scene that was cut out leading up to it.  The point of the scene is to get Timberlake to break up with his girlfriend, but it’s so poorly written that we just don’t care.  Watching the scene, you wonder if it wasn’t originally written as a sex scene but then re-written to get a PG-13 rating.

Watching the movie, I thought of Bad Santa and The Bad News Bears – for obvious reasons. Both of those movies work a lot better than Bad Teacher. What they have that this movie doesn’t is a world that seems to feed their badness. The problem here is that the bad teacher is interesting but she wades in a world that is soft, dull and uninteresting.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2011) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy