Friday, June 24, 2011
"Bad Teacher" (2011)
Sometimes it's fun to watch terrible people do terrible things. That's the core appeal of this next movie in a long string of R-rated comedies we've seen this summer. "Bad Teacher" stars Cameron Diaz in her most outrageous and raunchiest role in years. She plays Elizabeth, a seventh grade teacher who has no regard for the educational system. She shows her class movies like "Stand and Deliver" day after day while nursing hangovers at her desk and doesn't bother to learn any of her kids' names. How she landed a teaching position to begin with is beyond me. And just when she thinks she can leave it behind thanks to scheming off her rich fiancé, she gets dumped and has to return for another school year.
A charming and well-mannered substitute teacher with money, Scott (played by Diaz's ex Justin Timberlake), enters the picture and gives Elizabeth a new goal. She needs to raise 10 grand for a boob job so she can attract the new guy and get him to take care of her. Elizabeth is so absorbed with this task that she completely ignores the crudely playful and likable gym teacher, Russell (Jason Segel), who's an almost too obvious match from the start.
Elizabeth's foul and shallow way of life is created strictly from greed, and Diaz has a blast playing it up. It's hard to root for her and the cringe-worthy actions that come with, but we must -- just check your morality at the door and chuckle along. There are a handful of pretty good laughs, especially in the moments between Elizabeth and her doormat of a co-worker played by Phyllis Smith of "The Office" who casts aside under-her-breath mutterings of dry humor. It's only her and Segel performing in the realm of normalcy as every other character is a caricature, especially Timberlake embracing idiocy and proving to be a great comic actor. This also includes Elizabeth's competition, the prim and obnoxiously chipper Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch), the centerpiece of the thin plot presenting a much lesser image of female rivalry than last month's "Bridesmaids."
There's not a lot for these actors to work with considering the screenplay from "The Office" alumni Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg. It's a mish-mash of scenes without a lot of fluidity and hampered by its own potential of what it could've been in the hands of a more capable director (as opposed to Jake Kasdan of "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story"). Think more Alexander Payne in the vein of "Election." Even so, the scenes -- like a collection of puzzle pieces that don't quite fit -- are fitfully amusing and crude.
Best of all, "Bad Teacher" cannot be scolded for trying too hard to push the envelope of raunchy à la this summer's "The Hangover Part II." The most you see of Diaz is during a scantily-clad and water-soaked car washing fundraiser scene. The movie's most outrageous and single best bit contains sex, yes, but no nudity whatsoever. Figure that one out. What's unforgivable, however, is the ending which tries to squeeze a happy ending out of a chronicle of despicable behavior.
A bad, bad decision indeed.