Bad Teacher

Released: 2011
Director: Jake Kasdan

Starring: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel

Plenty of bawdy action, but not enough humour


Bawdy is a word that’s not used nearly enough these days. Meaning lewd or obscene it always brings to mind end-of-pier comedians in grotty seaside towns or small fat men chasing bikini clad beauties around the town. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of bawdy humour, but it tends not to be my thing. I don’t actively avoid it, but nor do I deliberately seek it out. While watching Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher however it was the one word that came to mind over and over again.

Diaz plays Elizabeth Halsey, a schoolteacher who dreams only of getting her breasts enlarged and becoming the trophy wife of a very rich man. Any rich man will do. Liz spends her nights getting drunk and looking for a new target and her days with a hangover and using movies as her only method of teaching. A new substitute teacher at school (Justin Timberlake) turns out to be heir to a watch-making fortune and Liz sets her sights on him, but has to compete with perfect Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) for his affections.

If you like your fictional teachers to be saint-like and inspirational, like Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society this is most definitely not the film for you. Liz is lazy, disinterested in her students to the point of cruelty and would rather store drugs in her desk drawer than books and pencils. Cameron Diaz manages to play Liz – foul-mouthed, self-obsessed and vile as she is – with a degree of sympathy. No-one is surely meant to like Liz but she is our heroine and I ended up on her side throughout the film, hoping she saw the error of her ways but not change too drastically. As her bête noire British actress Lucy Punch is outstanding. She has a gift for facial comedy and uses it to great effect here. Justin Timberlake is almost a parody of himself – the perfect, handsome young man. The character was terribly bland and Timberlake’s performance wasn’t much better. The most likeable character in the entire film was Jason Segel’s gym teacher Russell Gettis. Neither a paragon of virtue, nor a hideous caricature Segel, as always, shined as the everyman that the viewer can easily relate to.

It was fun to see Cameron Diaz act completely out of character, I’m so used to thinking of her as the ditzy but sweet blonde that Liz came as a pleasant surprise. Maybe every actress should play a foul-mouthed drug-taking horror every now and then, just to shake up the audience. Apart from Amy Adams of course.

The problem with Bad Teacher is that, for all the bawdy humour, it just isn’t funny enough. I smirked a few times, tittered once or twice and laughed out loud once. A couple of scenes left me absolutely cold and although Lucy Punch was exceptionally good as Amy Squirrel I was tired of her antics by the end of the film. The central premise is good enough and the cast are all fine but that’s the issue – everything is always just ok. If you’re going to be offensive you have to be bloody funny and Bad Teacher is merely so-so.

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