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Bad Teacher review - Diaz gets her bitch on


I wouldn't really call Bad Teacher a movie, so much as it is an hour and a half of Cameron Diaz acting like a complete money-grubbing bitch. I have to admit, it's fun to watch her exploit her coworkers, obsess about finding a man to leech off, smoke a bunch of pot, and try to embezzle money from students to get a boob job. Still, she's never quite as "bad" as the title implies. Her deeds are mean, yeah, but most fall into low grade crimes. Stealing test scores is as bad as it gets.

Here's the plot: Diaz, who plays Elizabeth Halsey, quits working at "Jams" middle school after a year because she's found a rich guy to mooch off of, or so she thinks. Unfortunately her $16,000 credit bill last month prompts him to dump her in the first five minutes of the film, which puts her right back at Jams. Luckily, at just about the same exact time, a rich man named Scott Delacorte (heir to the Delacorte watch fortune, we learn) is hired as a teacher. He's played by Justin Timberlake, so you know he's the real deal. Delacorte is one of those guys who loves everything and agrees with everyone. His favorite book is Eat Pray Love. His favorite part of that book: love. But who cares about his personality, or lack of it; Halsey wants money and Delacorte has it. Her plan to get his affection is a $9,300 boob job she can't afford, at least not yet.

A fun cast with little to do

Surrounding Halsey is a cast of fun one-joke characters you'll enjoy seeing including Phyllis Smith from The Office; John Michael Higgins, who plays the dolphin-obsessed Principal Snur; Lucy Punch as the job-obsessed rival teacher (Amy Squirrel) who hates Halsey cause she also has a crush on Delacorte; Dave Allen, who seems to play school faculty or a scientist in almost every movie; Thomas Lennon who you may remember as Lt. Jim Dangle from Reno 911; and Jason Segal as a gym teacher who likes Halsey even though she wants nothing to do with him. Fans of The Wire will also note a brief appearance by Deirde Lovejoy who played the Asst. State's Atty in the HBO series (a favorite of mine). 

Oddly, the plot says that Halsey has been working at the school for an entire year, but the characters act like she's a brand new hire, as do plot points like her "discovery" that the principal loves dolphins even though they litter his entire office. Wouldn't she have picked up on the dolphin obsession last year? The same goes for almost every revelation she makes in the film. Her lack of skill at fake teaching is also odd. After a year, she should know that showing movies in class every day will get her in trouble. Perhaps I'm overthinking this.

All about Diaz

It's fun to watch Cameron Diaz act selfish and rude, but that's the extent of the appeal of Bad Teacher. The plot doesn't make much sense (did you expect it to?) and mostly involves characters like Amy Squirrel randomly popping up to try and bust Halsey for being, well, a bad teacher. Other characters seem to change personas, pop up, and disappear as required to serve the prank or mean one-liner Halsey needs to deliver.

I imagine a movie like this could develop a cult following if a network like TBS decides to show it on repeat for a few months. I mean, who doesn't enjoy watching a teacher violently pelt dodgeballs at students who can't answer trivia questions about To Kill a Mockingbird? It's just fun. Still, I wish the script would have gone further or given her an actual motive for being a jerk or a persona that justified her getting away with it. As it stands, this is a film filled with small laughs and a few uncomfortable groans. If you're bored, go for it, but I imagine you'll get more laughs seeing films like Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, Bridesmaids, or The Hangover Part II. If you want dramedy, try Beginners or Submarine.



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