By Elena Cresci
Cameron Diaz returns to the big screen in Bad Teacher, where she takes on the role of a foul-mouthed junior high teacher in a screenplay penned by Gene Stupinsky and Lee Eisenberg (Year One). The film sees Diaz share the screen with former beau Justin Timberlake, last seen in The Social Network, and Jason Segel of I Love You, Man fame.
Elizabeth Halsey is no responsible educator; she absolutely detests her job and cuts every corner possible. She’s not a fan of kids, doesn’t bother with her co-workers – unless they’re rich – and is in the job for the long summers off while saving up for her breast enlargements through various illicit means. From turning her school’s carwash into an excuse to pull on her daisy dukes to stealing the school’s state exam to ensure she receives the state bonus for the highest marks achieved, there isn’t much Elizabeth will stop at. All the while, she’s keen to nab Scott Delacorte, played by Timberlake, new substitute teacher and heir to a family fortune.
I wouldn’t say I had extremely high hopes for Bad Teacher, but the trailer hinted at a biting satire in the mould of Bad Santa with an offbeat attitude packing a real punch. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. In actuality, I found it somewhat difficult to care that much about the film or its characters. There are certain moments of brilliance, but these are few and far between in a film which is bland and boring. As the film progresses, it becomes apparent that Bad Teacher is nowhere near the black comedy it aspires to be.
The problem doesn’t necessarily lie with the actors themselves. There are some great performances here, particularly from Diaz, who carries off Elizabeth’s arrogant nonchalance with ease. Evidently, the problem lies with Eisenberg and Stupnitsky’s screenplay, which features a complete lack of character development. Almost everyone in Bad Teacher is a caricature, and they’re not even likable ones at that. Elizabeth’s arch-nemesis comes in the form of peppy, over-achieving do-gooder Amy Squirrel, played by Lucy Punch (Hot Fuzz, Dinner for Schmucks). I found it hard pushed to actually believe she is the shining example of good teaching in this school, rather than just a severely neurotic foil to Elizabeth’s ‘couldn’t give a sh*t’ attitude. Timberlake’s performance is passable, it’s just a pity his character is as one-dimensional as the rest.
Possibly the only exception to this line-up of one-dimensional characters is Jason Segel’s gym teacher, Russell Gettis. From TV to the big screen, Segel has the innate ability to make his characters relatable and down-to-earth. This is so much the case in Bad Teacher that Segel almost seems out of place throughout. Saying that, I’m thankful for his inclusion; I’d even go as far as to say much of what is funny about Bad Teacher is down to Segel’s scenes.
I’ll give credit where credit is due; the expectation with a film such as Bad Teacher is our amoral protagonist undergoes a clichéd character reformation. The trailer hints at such, but this doesn’t actually come about. While it would certainly have been particularly formulaic to have Elizabeth take a complete U-turn in behaviour, this is yet another example of the lack of plot progression and character development in the film.
It would have been nice to see more in terms of interaction between Elizabeth and her pupils, who are featured rarely in the grand scheme of things. It’s not even as if the teachers themselves are that interesting. Overall Bad Teacher is a feature length film using a plot device which gets boring in the first twenty minutes. It’s a passable evening’s entertainment if you’re looking for some way to pass the time, but it’s probably one I’d save for when you’ve seen everything else on offer.
4 OUT OF 10
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