Dirty-minded comedy targeted at teen audience but more suitable for untamed adults. Bad Teacher has its embarrassing moments such as fake bare boobs right in front of the camera and a dry humping scene, but it has a disobedient no-apologies personality for a movie. Cameron Diaz has as much right to be a reckless educator as Billy Bob Thornton had the chance to do with “Bad Santa,” let’s be upfront that she is an unlikeable character – but she’s a little too mean and non-redeeming. Diaz gets dumped by her rich fiancé whom she was only after because of his money (mom steps in). As a shallow gold-digger, she has to continue teaching grade school to support herself. Bottom line of the shamelessly threadbare plot: She wants $9,000-plus to get herself a boob job. She’s ready to defraud anybody from the school principal to the under faculty to get what she wants.
The casting is a mixed success only because, while everyone has their amusing moments, they come off as cardboard types. Justin Timberlake (his dorkiest work since “The Love Guru”) is a teacher so nerdy that he doesn’t see Diaz’s blatant come-ons. Jason Segel (“I Love You, Man”) is the gym teacher with a shameless appreciation for naughty banter and big boobs. John Michael Higgins (“Yes Man”) is the all too trusting school principal. Phyllis Smith (TV’s “The Office”) is the painfully shy and inward educator languishing for a true friend. These people just get messed with by Diaz, who has rarely been this heartless (“The Sweetest Thing” and “Vanilla Sky” come to mind).
Best is the chirpy but competitive Lucy Punch (she played Anthony Hopkins’ hooker turned wife in “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”). She gets annoyed immediately by the time Diaz refuses to monitor her “quadrant” at the student lunch cafeteria. Punch strikes a hilarious chord with Timberlake when they find “simpatico” with one another. Diaz wants to steal Timberlake away just because he is heir to a wrist-watch fortune family, not because he is in anyway a lothario (there is nothing masculine-aggressive about anything he does, opposite of what Timberlake was like as Sean Parker). Diaz is all about seduce and destroy, but if she had a million in the bank, what kind of guy would she choose? One of the several screenplay problems is that we never know what kind of future Diaz is pointing towards. What are her goals anyway?
Some of the jokes get stale or go nowhere. It gets a little tiring when Diaz interminably plops teacher movies on VHS like “Stand and Deliver,” “Lean on Me,” “Dangerous Minds” in front of her classroom as an alternative to actual teaching. (Instead of this repetition, wouldn’t it have been funnier had she gotten her most stuck-up student to teach class?). Diaz takes parents’ money to tutor their kids but she never does, and the parents never retaliate – is it Diaz or the parental characters whom are absent-minded? Diaz, at a school dance, gives her square colleague a joint, but the after effects of a middle-aged woman doing pot for the first time is not given a follow-through. Writing is lazy, cutting corners or just plain forgetful.
You might be able to withstand some of this, like I could, just to get to scenes of a lovesick boy confessing his love for a stuck-up blonde from class only to get laughed at – only to be followed by an even more impious scene of Diaz being brutally honest with the kid that his poetic sensitivity will never get him laid. Other kinds of derisive humor is doled out, such as dodgeball in the face for students’ wrong answers. Yes, Diaz finally wants to teach these kids so they score high on state tests but only so she can get a district bonus.
Diaz is bad to the bone: Boozer, schemer, manipulator, freeloader… She sticks her butt out, too. Yeah, it’s intended for adults. But teen boys will probably go for the brief cheap thrills. But when it counts most, the outrageousness is tamed. Not counting the embarrassing dry humping scene.
89 Minutes. Rated R.
CRUDE COMEDY / ADULTS OR LATE TEENS / WEEKEND MOVIE DEBAUCHERY
Film Cousins: “The Taming of the Shrew” (1967); “The Last Seduction” (1995); “Ghost World” (2001); “Bad Santa” (2003).