Elizabeth Halsey (Diaz) is probably the worst teacher you could imagine. She has touches of Jack Black’s Dewey Finn (from School of Rock) about her, but a lot more scheming, malicious and downright lazy. She is definitely not the kind of person you want teaching your kids; her methods are more than questionable (dodgeball English lessons!) and she is really only working as a teacher to save for a boob job. Halsey coasts through life on her looks, and is just looking for a man to keep her. When she is dumped by her fiance, however, she has to return to work as a teacher and try to figure out her next move.
Cameron Diaz has made a name for herself playing the sexy, funny, fun girl next door – apart from her frumped up performance in Being John Malkovich – so it’s a refreshing change to see her play a character who is less than likeable. Although Elizabeth is distinctly free of morals and scruples, it’s hard not to root for her. We’ve all done jobs we hate for the wrong reasons, gone into work hungover and slacked off. Even though Elizabeth’s motivation is slightly alien to many in the audience – wanting to find a rich man to look after her – it’s difficult to dislike her, and very easy to empathise with the feeling of ‘this is not where I was supposed to be at this age’.
Justin Timberlake is surprisingly funny as Scott, the object of Elizabeth’s attentions. He is ridiculously over the top and slightly sleazy, but everyone seems to love him. To begin with, the audience roots against him and Elizabeth ending up together to protect him, but as the movie goes on we end up wanting Elizabeth to realise she’d be better off without this self absorbed nutjob.
The supporting cast is great as well, especially Phylis from The Office as Mary who wants desperately to be cool but ultimately tries too hard, Lucy Punch as the jealous Miss Squirrel, and Jason Segel as Russel – who sees straight through Elizabeth from the first time he meets her, and likes her for who she is… Aww.
At a surprisingly short 92 minutes, Bad Teacher sometimes feels a little long. We never find out if there is a reason Elizabeth is so angry and manipulative and this works against the movie. While the lead character is funny and relateable at times, it is sometimes hard to carry a movie on the fact that Elizabeth hates everyone, when the audience has no idea why. The script relies too much on curse words to cover these holes, and while the audience laughs at first, after a while we find ourselves wanting to know more about this person and what has made her the way she is. The cast as a whole has to be commended for playing characters that are so different from the way the audience is used to seeing them, and making them work.
Overall, Bad Teacher is fun and funny, with some brilliant one liners and audience expectations turned on their heads. The film does have issues, plotholes and is quite predictable at times, but turn your brain off, don’t over analyse and just go with it. We did, and we had fun.