Cameron Diaz has made a career out of playing versatile-but-always-hot characters decently well. The same holds true of Bad Teacher, a film where Diaz plays hot, intelligent, and selfish in equal measure. Her character, Elizabeth, is like crazying down her character in Vanilla Sky and coupling it with her portrayal of Mary in the iconic Farrelly brothers film, sans the smile.
Bad Teacher is the story of Elizabeth Halsey, a middle school educator recently engaged to a wealthy man who is coddled by his mother. Ready to live the good life, Halsey has spent months preparing to quit her teaching position. In fact, we meet Halsey on her very last day of school. All is looking on the up-and-up until 10 minutes into the film, when the mom breaks the engagement and Halsey finds herself broke and back in the school system. Let it be noted here that Halsey is a horrible person, and thus a horrible teacher, a byproduct of an education program that is easy to get into and even easier to work through.
When Halsey returns, out of necessity -- one can only get away with the bare minimum thing only if they feel they are on the way out -- she begins to pay attention to her fellow professionals. Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) is an over-attentive, insanely annoying seventh grade teacher who works across the hall. Russel Gettis (Jason Segel) is the continually bemused gym teacher who generally spends his days hitting on Elizabeth. Principal Wally Snur (Jon Michael Higgins) just wants to get along and discuss dolphins. Then there is Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), the substitute who also happens to be the spawn of a very famous, very wealthy watchmaker.
What follows is hardly revolutionary, but is used to great effect. Halsey, who is notorious for looking for sugar daddies, wants Delecorte, but Squirrel responds better to Delacorte’s personality. Halsey wants big boobs, Squirrel already has big boobs, and, of course, Delacorte seems to like big boobs. The arch-nemesis thing absolutely works, with Punch putting in more funny face manipulations and a better performance than I’ve seen from her (especially when compared with Take Me Home Tonight). The whole of the ensemble cast is great in Bad Teacher, and the kids in Halsey’s classroom don’t take up as much of the plot as they may have in another school-oriented film. Unfortunately, the focus is mostly on Elizabeth, who generally squanders her time and gets up to some really schloozy shenanigans, including using date-rape drugs and stealing test scores. When Gettis shares screen time, the way the two play off one another is pretty believable, and it seems like Bad Teacher might have moved slightly closer to perfect had the plotline been implemented more.
Director Jake Kasdan is a big fan of sight gags throughout Bad Teacher. He’s interested in multiple shots of Elizabeth’s license plate, unsubtly stating “hers” as she moves from a fancy car to a crappy one. He’s also interested in shooting a middle school student with a full-on erection while Halsey washes cars. The whole thing is peppered with quick cut-tos of non-plot-essential shots like these. While some of these shots might deserve a smile, they are all noticeably gimmicky. If he wanted to be abrasive, I’d take one more line like Halsey bursting out, “When’s the last time you had a good dicking?” to a coworker for 10 of these sight gags. If he wanted to be clever, I’d have taken one more line of Gettis bluntly telling Halsey, “I’m like the fucking Terminator, dude, I’m going to keep coming after you” for a hundred.
The sight gags may not work, but much of Bad Teacher does. With its theatrical release tucked in between this summer’s The Hangover Part II and Friends with Benefits, Bad Teacher finds more of a comedic balance than the former and is more of a real comedy than the latter. The script plays out like the witty, wry reflection of a writer who really knows comedy (or two people, in this instance). That has more rewatch value than a few people fucking around Bangkok or waxing poetic about pop culture.
There are a two options for watching Bad Teacher. The first is the theatrical version and the second is the unrated version. Once that choice is made, you can choose to play with or without MovieIQ. I watched the unrated version, and honestly, I didn’t notice a real difference between what I saw in the theater and the disc.
I couldn’t totally get into all of the extras even though they were meant to be funny and often tongue-in-cheek. The first is a JAMS Yearbook click-through featuring the main character’s interests, a quotation, and a “memorable moments” video clip which is basically random outtakes and shots of the characters filming on set.
You also get a gag reel. Generally, I abhor the gag reel, especially when there are outtakes available; however, this gag reel owns, probably because Cameron Diaz peppers vulgarity throughout. Outtakes and deleted scenes follow, each with a few gems and a few unfortunate moments.
“Way Behind the Scenes with Jason and Justin” is a series of interviews with the two men while they dick around for the camera. The rest of the extras sort of follow suit. “A Very Odd Blacksmith Story” tells a very odd story about the blacksmith present during the Springfield trip, and then there is a whole segment on Higgins and his love for dolphins. There’s more on BD-Live and some trailers, but that is really the meat of the extras. I appreciate that Kasdan tried for something different, but it wasn’t wholly worthwhile.