Starring: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Lucy Punch and Jason Segel
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Runtime: 92 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
A bit of cinema froth. Black froth. Easily blown away, but may leave a bad taste in the mouth. But, it is still only froth and to be judged accordingly. Anyone who goes to see Bad Teacher thinking it is a film about education obviously hasn’t done their homework.
The comedy is akin to South Park or those satires which take up a theme and imagine how it would play if you took and exaggerated the possible bad (which makes sense only if you appreciate what is good). So, Bad Teacher is something like a 90 minute unwashed shaggy dog story about a completely self-centred, go-getting, unscrupulous teacher, Elizabeth, played with full on energy by Cameron Diaz, manipulating people, ignoring students (until a bonus for getting best results comes into view), being rude to everyone. It’s the kind of satiric joke we sometimes like to spin. It’s also like a series of vignettes for a television series, rather hit and miss in its targets and its humour which, of necessity, has its many crass moment.
Farewelled from school after one year at work (how she got there in the first place is a mystery) but ditched by her fiance’s mother-in-law, she goes back to school, full of temporary surface charm but planning on getting another wealthy fiancé by undergoing breast enhancement. Some of the situations and jokes are obvious – her turning up for the grade 7 car wash day and making a mint because of the ogling men; her seduction of a city official to get an advance copy of tests. But, there are some funny black moments and wisecracks (and getting her class to watch teacher movies, Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds, Lean on Me – and the death of the principal, Henry Winkler, in Scream!).
Justin Timberlake gives a nice performance as the completely gullible nice and naive (wealthy) teacher. Lucy Punch has the unenviable role of being the rival for teacher accolades and for the nice teacher. Jason Segal is the gym teacher who takes a wry (but ogling) view of Elizabeth. John Michael Higgins is the harassed principal. Phyllis Smith is engaging as the large, simple and would-be friend.
Then it ends with Elizabeth back at school – but it is hard to tell whether the film makers are just being satirical or are trying to be romantic, or having it both ways.
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