Review by Jack Foley
GIVEN its comic potential Bad Teacher ought to have passed the comedy bar with flying colours. Alas, it barely makes the grade.
Jake Kasdan’s film is an intermittently funny experience that is all too often content to labour the point and lurch from one set up to the next. Plot very rarely gets a look in.
Cameron Diaz stars as Elizabeth Halsey, a foul mouthed, uninspiring teacher, who would rather marry her way to success with Justin Timberlake’s shallow supply teacher (who stands to inherit a fortune) rather than entertain the advances of Jason Segel’s far more down to earth PE teacher.
In order to do so, however, she feels she must get a boob job, to be paid for by winning a best teacher award and putting Lucy Punch’s goody two shoes colleague in the shade.
Given the comic talent assembled and the presence of former Freaks & Geeks luminary Kasdan in the director’s chair, you should have been able to expect a much sharper, funny and provocative experience in the mould of Billy Bob Thornton’s Bad Santa (to which this clearly aspires).
But the script (from Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg) has more in common with their Year One movie dud than their work on TV’s The Office.
Jokes often feel strained or over-cooked (and that’s if they’re funny), while characters mostly feel too mean spirited and/or self-serving to inspire much interest.
Crucially, you’ll never really warm to Diaz’s character, while her last act change of heart is totally out of keeping with the rest of the film and feels tacked on.
Of her co-stars, Timberlake only really looks comfortable when parodying himself despite getting the odd juicy line, while Punch is ultimately short-changed by the direction her character is forced to take.
Only seasoned comic performer Segel emerges with any real credit, effortlessly generating laughs through the slick delivery of his lines and wearing the look of a man throughout who seems to have the knowing measure of the material.
Unfortunately, Segel is under-used and cannot save Bad Teacher from ending up the failure it ultimately becomes. This is one to expel from the memory as quickly as possible.
Running time: 92mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: October 31, 2011