Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bad Teacher (2011)

A romantic comedy centred around a shallow, drug using, potty mouthed junior high teacher who, after being dumped by her sugar daddy, begins to woo a colleague - a move that pits her against a fellow teacher.  So, Bad Teacher, it does what it says on the tin. Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) starts out as a shallow money grabbing slag that has plans of a life as a trophy wife, which is unexpectedly circumvented by an astute future mother in law and her sugar daddy’s accountant. I hadn't really heard anything about this film until seeing it and never for a moment thought about the most obvious parallel (that I’m going to point out to you right now).


There is an absolutely fantastic and underrated comedy starring Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, John Ritter, Bernie Mac and Lauren Graham called Bad Santa. It has been a staple of my own programming cycle since its release - so much so that it has become the 'A Christmas Carol' for my friends and I. Bad Santa for anyone who hasn’t seen it places a sexually deviant, thieving, ill tempered drunkard in the titular red suit with the fake beard behaving disgustingly and saying all manner of inappropriate things to small children. Fast forward to now and Bad Teacher transplants all of those key elements of a person that shouldn’t be around children, that liberally uses drugs, that drinks far too much and that conducts themselves in a somewhat slovenly fashion.

The point of difference is that Halsey (Diaz) is a superficial character pushed to self-improvement in the form of cosmetic surgery because she’s unsatisfied with her absolutely ridiculously picture-perfect presentation due to a perceived inadequacy in her cup size. Halsey sees a pair of massive breasts as the missing piece that she needs to be of a perfect trophy wife standard. And when Halsey stumbles upon the wealthy substitute teacher Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake) she finds herself another potential sugar daddy to pursue; but she does have to contend with the weird #1 teacher Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch).

Bad Teacher does have some really funny elements and some really good performances, and director Jake Kasdan constructs a comedic landscape filled with a cache of quirky characters. Lynn Davies (Phyllis Smith), Halsey’s introverted colleague provides many sweet moments – especially when being coerced into picking up a cowboy in a bar. Principal Snur (John Michael Higgins) is great as the positive, but disturbingly attached to dolphins, head of school. Timberlake steals the show as the caring, sensitive, and dry humping Delacorte – proving once again that he’s got great comedic timing.


Personally I feel the film detrimentally anchors itself to its mainstream rom-com structure and runs aground. The vulgar, promiscuous, bad girl that is not maternal whatsoever sets too poor an example for all the students, so in order to grow she (painfully) finds love where she least expected it (in an all too clichéd and boring way) with the portly gym teacher with the great sense of humour (Jason Segel).

The moments in the film that stay away from clichéd rom-com plot devices and show Halsey’s true shallow, filthy, drunken, superficial and indifferent nature actually make the film worth watching. For me the ending was really hard to take because of the potential that the film showed early on. Bad Teacher is not so bad that it’s good – it’s a mix of good and bad that makes it O.K.

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