Five minutes into Bad Teacher, you begin to think that you have a solid comedy caper at hands. And why not? With Cameron Diaz shedding her girl-next-door image and portraying a crude yet charming middle school teacher, one is bound to raise hopes. Unfortunately for Bad Teacher, even Diaz’s charisma isn’t enough to carry the film to the next level. That does not mean that the film is bad — no, it most definitely isn’t. But it isn’t extraordinary either.
The movie is about a sharp, usually inappropriate teacher Elizabeth (Diaz) who never shies away from getting what she wants. And what she wants now is Scott, a recently divorced teacher (Timberlake) who has just joined school. Throw in a jealous competitor, a gym instructor with the hots for Elizabeth, a timid 7th grader coping with quintessential girl problems and you have the plot for Bad Teacher.
While there’s nothing groundbreaking in the story, what makes the film work in places is its cleverly chosen leading lady. While she may no longer be the immaculate Charlie’s Angel who used to be the highest paid actress of Hollywood, she still lights up the screen. Her recent films have been a mix of hits-and-misses but this time around she shines with a top notch performance, making the movie more enjoyable than its mediocre script deserves. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that she is easy on the eyes.
The supporting cast does a fair job of carrying the film forward. The weakest of them all is without doubt Justin Timberlake. It would be unfair to call him the lead actor here, there is none. His character is weakly written and doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. Jason Segal on the other hand seems to be enjoying the small yet significant role of the gym teacher avidly pursuing Elizabeth while she treats him like dirt. It’s refreshing to see him step out of his Marshall avatar of “How I Met Your Mother”. Lucy Punch also delivers a decent performance as Elizabeth’s obsessive arch-rival.
Director Jake Kasdan, who has previously been associated with forgettable work here and there, has spread the film with decent enough gags to make it entertaining overall. Still, one can’t help but wish that the movie was more than just a vehicle to exhibit Diaz’s effervescence and more attention had been paid to the plot. Bad Teacher is one of those films that you watch on a lazy weekend when you can’t think of anything better to do. Don’t go for this one if you aren’t a Diaz fan. Otherwise, just watch Harry Potter again!
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, August 14th, 2011.