Are you a fan of comedy based on the sole premise that it is funny to see a beautiful woman make outrageously crude and narcissistic statements? Then go watch Sarah Silverman. This movie will only show you how much better she is by comparison.
It’s a shame to see the talents of Cameron Diaz, Jason Segal, Justin Timberlake, and Lucy Punch wasted on a one-joke premise that could barely support an SNL sketch. Here it is: Diaz plays Elizabeth, a bad teacher. How bad is she? She snoozes through class while the kids watch movies, she drinks and smokes marijuana at school, she never learns the kids’ names or teaches them anything, and she uses bad language. She will do anything to marry a wealthy man or get the money she needs for breast enlargement surgery, because she thinks it will help her marry a wealthy man. She is not just bad; unfortunately she is also unpleasant, annoying, and dull.
There’s really nothing more to say about the plot. Elizabeth is bad in many different situations — cafeteria, classroom, school dance, student’s home, and field trip. She is bad in different ways — mean, selfish, obnoxious, dishonest. She is rude to many different people — teachers, parents, students. She uses her looks, most notably at a fund-raising car wash where she diverts the funds to her own Daisy Dukes and in an encounter with the keeper of the standardized test she wants to steal (Thomas Lennon). But it’s the same joke over and over and over and over. The expression of unabashed, vulgar, angry, selfish superego in what is supposed to be a protected context has undeniable appeal (see the best-seller Go the F**k to Sleep). But it is not enough to sustain a movie.
It’s briefly fun to see “Modern Family’s” Eric Stonestreet in a very different role and Diaz gets some credit for being fearless — no winking at the audience to let us know she’s loveable. But Timberlake is wasted in another one-dimensional part. The few highlights come from Jason Segal, who has a wonderfully wry confidence as the school’s PE teacher and Lucy Punch as Elizabeth’s nemesis has some fun with the demented perkiness of a teacher driven around the bend. They show how much more a talented comic performer can bring to an under-written story. But that isn’t enough to keep “Bad Teacher” from being a bad movie.
Family discussion: Whose side are you supposed to be on in this movie? What did Russell see in Elizabeth that no one else did? Whose behavior was worse, Elizabeth’s or Amy’s and why?