Summer Movie Review: Bad Teacher

When a movie’s central plot focuses on a 7th grade teacher manipulating her way to $10,000 for a new pair of tits so she can marry into wealth, one shouldn’t feel too discouraged about characters being poorly developed. However, when a cast headlined by Cameron Diaz features some of television’s best comedic actors in Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother), Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family), Phyllis Smith (The Office), John Michael Higgins (Community), and Thomas Lennon (Reno 911), there is reason for disappointment.

No, Justin, hosting SNL does not mean you can act.

Diaz impresses as Elizabeth Halsey, the foul-mouthed 7th grade teacher who, at all times, is either drunk, high, or hungover. She is, essentially, the female incarnation of Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as though Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, the geniuses behind Year One (the one terrible Apatow film), thought to study the 2003 anti-Christmas film. Had they taken notes, they may have realized that conflicted heroes are irresistible, but no one wants to fall for a character who lacks a certain depth, especially one who finds redemption with very little build up. There are two scenes in the movie where Halsey shows her softer side while dealing with unpopular students are genuinely touching, but the students are one-dimensional characters who take very little out of these heartfelt moments.

When did women getting breast implants
become the golden ticket to wealth?

Bad Teacher is the first of two summer releases featuring Justin Timberlake (the other being Friends With Benefits, in which he stars opposite the incredible Mila Kunis). The pop-star turned actor plays wealthy substitute teacher Scott Delacorte, an easily swayed incompetent whose ideals are flaky and whose passion is in line with the flavor of the month. While this allows for several funny moments where he is mocked by Jason Segel’s character of Russell Gettis, the school’s gym teacher, Delacorte as a potential mate for Hasley is never as believable as the movie may want its audience to think.

Jason Segel is great in what is a very limited role. Segel has a certain knack for comedic delivery and timing that have often complimented his characters. While these strengths are utilized in his here, his role as school gym teacher Russell Gettis is so limited that he does very little aside from chase after Hasley or mock Delacorte. Bad Teacher would have benefited greatly from more screen-time between Segel and Diaz. With his career as a screenwriter becoming more prominent, here’s hoping that a film showcasing this chemistry is not too far away.
Hopefully we’ll see more of these two on screen soon.

The problem with Bad Teacher is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. It shows potential, but rather than convey a cleverly developed story that invests in its character and makes use of subtly, it relies on over-exposure, forced edginess, and the always reliable dick, fart, and poop jokes for big laughs. The film lacks focus, the protagonist isn’t fleshed out enough, and the supporting characters have very little screen time to see development. The sad part is that this could have been the vehicle that Cameron Diaz needed to establish herself as an A-list comedic actress. Most of the few laugh-out-loud moments came from her delivery and commitment to her material. It just so happens the material here isn’t any good.

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