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June 25, 2011
Review - " Bad teacher "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Bad Teacher
Director: Jake Kasdan
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel, Lucy Punch
& John Michael Higgins

Of all the things that Bad Teacher is, one of them is definitely ‘not for
everyone.’ There are many audiences who will be turned off by the
foul and mean spirited humor found in Bad Teacher but for those
who skew toward the more savage end of the comedy pool will find a
treasure trove of comedy made of pure gold. As it turns out, I am
neck deep in those water and absolutely loved Bad Teacher.

The story is simple and complex at the same time. Simple in that it
follows a well worn path of comedies in this genre but complex in that
a lot happens along the way and it is never quite what you expect. It
all revolves around a destitute teacher, Elizabeth (Cameron Diaz),
who is not in the profession as a calling but just going through the
motions while trying to find a sugar daddy so she can live out her
days shopping, getting high and doing whatever she wants. She was
almost there before her fiance wised up and dumped her. Newly poor
she has to go back to a job she hates and deal with the ire of rival
teacher Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) and the advances of persistent
gym teacher Russell Gettis (Jason Segel). Things look up when new
substitute teacher Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake) shows up and
turns out to be the heir to a sizable fortune while also looking like
Justin Timberlake. Elisabeth decides the only way to help him get
over his recent divorce and win his money for her own is to get
bigger boobs. Toward that end, she sets about trying to come up with
the money for breast enlargement while also trying to keep Amy from
stealing him away.
There are a lot of movies that have the same basic set up and when you add in the school element you get a bunch of
inspirational movies where the teacher has something to teach the kids but also has a lot to learn from the students. There
are moments in Bad Teacher where it seems like the movie is going this direction but it never really betrays itself by falling
too deeply into convention. This is where the movie really shines, in the surprise deviations from cliche that stay true to the
original concept. Elisabeth has a story arc and learns some lessons but she stays true to herself no matter what and that is
pretty amazing given the current state of the studio system.

The plot devices and where
worn conventions used in this
movie are not the liabilities
they would normally be in a
film like this but rather become
its greatest strength. Because
you know what should be
coming the shocking humor
and dialogue are able to take
you by surprise and hit their
mark deep in the gut. From
the opening scenes of the
movie it sets you up and slaps
you right across the face and
that material just flat works.

The writing really shines here
with not only the big moments
but also clever dialogue and unexpected turns. The major parts were hamstrung by being prominently featured in trailers
which dulled their edge considerably. But what couldn’t be shown in the trailer so much are the shocking and mean
moments in which Elizabeth does or says something so off color that it is almost unbelievable. She goes so far into
unlikable territory that it becomes amazing that the audience doesn’t disconnect with her completely. She is written in such
a way that no matter what vile, crazy thing she does you don’t really hate her. I think what really helps this is that she is also
legitimately funny and while there are tons of off color and outrageous things said and done, the script doesn’t use it as a
crutch. The framework and maneuvering around that framework is so solid that the nastiness serves to bolster it as
opposed to propping it up.

tender and nice and completely insufferable. Timberlake delivers a terrific performance by not producing a caricature but
rather a person who is really just annoyingly earnest and empty. Lucy Punch plays loony tunes crazy very well but she
proves here that she can do normal/crazy as well. Her Amy Squirrel is not a bad person but she is definitely a petty and
jealous one who is only satisfied when all the glory goes to her. Does this make her deserving of the business end of
Elizabeth’s ire? It is a good question and one Bad Teacher goes a long way in answering. Jason Segel is wonderful as
always as a schlubby gym  teacher who is charming, genuine and is probably the best touchtone the audience has with
basic human decency.

Principle cast aside, the film also has some great cameos and supporting actors. Eric Stonestreet delivers some of the best
moments in the movie as Elizabeth’s craigslist roommate in a pretty major departure from his character on Modern Family. It
is also great to see Dave ‘Gruber’ Allen in a role not dissimilar to his awesome role in Freaks and Geeks. Phyllis Smith,
John Michael Higgins and Thomas Lennon round out a very talented cast.

All of that heaped praise
aside, the film is not perfect.
It falls prey to some of the
cliches it is playing off of on
occasion and is a bit uneven
from a pacing perspective.
You add that with the tone of
the film that will turn off a
sizable segment of the
audience and you are going
to have a movie that a lot of
people really hate. If you don’t
like this style of comedy then
you are going to be
unsatisfied without a doubt.

If you want to live vicariously
through a character who says
things you wish you could say
and think that off color humor
is hilarious then you should
waste no time seeing Bad
The performances do a lot
to help this along. I think a
different cast would have
handled this in a very
different way and not to the
film’s benefit. Cameron Diaz
really nails Elizabeth and  
gives the impression that
she is not really ‘mean’ as
much as she is just selfish
and doesn’t care. There are
flashes of tenderness and
feeling in her but they are
very quick and even
genuinely helpful advice is
buried very deep in a frank
and unfeeling shell. Justin
Timberlake really shines as
Delacorte, a goody goody
that has his head so far up
his own ass it would be a
miracle to get a real genuine
thought out of him. He is