Bad Teacher has been advertised as a cool, biting romantic comedy. The promotional trailer shows Cameron Diaz as a teacher trying to raise money to have surgery to increase the size of her breasts, and by doing so secure the affections of new school supply teacher Justin Timberlake.
The trailer is rather misleading. The reality is less formulaic, but also less interesting. Diaz’s narcissistic character does want plastic surgery so as to have more of a chance with Justin. But she doesn’t want romance, or companionship. She wants money. And Justin just happens to be a guy with a fortune. He’s actually not really in the film all that much. There isn’t any real romance (apart from a belated attempt at the end), nothing very funny happens, and although Diaz is a consistently watchable presence, the script doesn’t allow her ‘bad teacher’ to develop in any likable or interesting way. Some parts did manage to get a small laugh from me, but these were mostly due to British actress Lucy Punch as Diaz’s competitive colleague. Punch is much too good for this stuff, but she still manages to drag some comedy from the uninspired script.
Structurally the film is a mess. In all honesty, there isn’t a structure, just a bundle of odd, ill-judged scenarios that feel as if they’ve been pilfered from a bad taste E4 sitcom. There is a really horrible ‘dry humping’ scene that way outstays its welcome (not that it was very welcome in the first place). Creepy and very weird.
Cameron Diaz, in an interview on BBC Radio 5, said that she was so glad that this script came her way as there are so few comedies that have females in the lead. This is apparently because men don’t understand women, says Cameron. Her words may have truth in them, though her point seems baffling and absurd when one looks at how women are portrayed in the film. They dress like prostitutes, are incessantly bitchy and manipulative, and revel in their own narcissism. This film may give a female the lead, but it peddles the same leery and cynical attitude towards women usually found in barrel-scraping blokey comedies such as The Hangover and Superbad.
It’s a shame, because it feels as if Bad Teacher had the potential to be edgy and wickedly funny. But our lead character’s failings and flaws are so extreme (child cruelty, frequent drug abuse) that there is little room for us to sympathise with her, or even enjoy hating her. She’s a shallow, horrid creation, and you’d be better off never meeting her.
Good: Lucy Punch is funny, and Cameron has enough charisma to stop it being boring.
Bad: It’s uncomfortably weird and had very little laughs or plot.