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Bad Teacher

June 25, 2011

Russell: Hey, do you wanna get a bite sometime?
Elizabeth: You still a gym teacher?
Russell: Yes.
Elizabeth: Then no.

I went into Bad Teacher with exceptionally low expectations, and I had every right to be based off of its less then impressive reviews. As I was watching the film, I had no idea what critics were talking about, because Bad Teacher is not only funnier than it should have been, but it features great editing, fun actors, and a more then acceptable script while playing out something quite similar to a full-length sitcom. Although the insanely deranged story and vulgar humor may be too much for some to stomach (which emphasizes the plainly obvious (inevitability) that the director took advantage of an R-rating), Bad Teacher is hilarious, interesting, and most importantly; doesn’t take itself too seriously. 

After the school year ends, teacher Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) plans to quit her job to mooch off of her rich fiancé. When the engagement is broken off, Elizabeth finds herself as a teacher again. If you’ve seen the previews, you probably already know that Elizabeth is a bad teacher (ha!) and is terrible at what she does: she spends her time at school not grading, not teaching, and sleeping at her desk while showing her class movies. Things turn around as Elizabeth meets Scott Delacote (Justin Timberlake), who is both rich and handsome. To win Scott over and retire, Elizabeth believes that if she gets a boob job, he will fall for her. Elizabeth learns of a competition at her school which is as follows: whichever class gets the highest scoring on a state exam will result in the teacher earning a cash-filled prize. There is also Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) who is a rival teacher trying to win the prize. As if I haven’t mentioned enough, we also have Jason Segel who stars as Russell, the school’s gym teacher (who additionally has a crush on Elizabeth) and is a very shy yet kind person. The film also has a great supporting cast of actors such as Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet, who plays Elizabeth’s roommate, The Office’s Phyllis Smith, and the film’s scene stealer Thomas Lennon.

As I already stated, Bad Teacher is a very funny movie, especially for a film that doesn’t try too hard to impress. Even though it’s no Bad Santa, it follows very similar structure, and Diaz plays a [female] Billy Bob Thorton and plays it pretty damn well. Throughout the film, Elizabeth is a bad teacher, she’s rude, she gets high, and she screws people over for money. What I’m trying to convey is that Elizabeth is a very unlikable character, and I’m guessing doesn’t get much sympathy from its audience, because again, she is a bad teacher. Audiences may feel hopeful that Elizabeth will stop being an inconsistent person, but the fact that she doesn’t adds to the hilarity of her character. 

The supporting actors in this film are almost perfect for these roles. We have the lovable Phyllis Smith who plays a fine role as another teacher and a friend of Elizabeth’s. Lucy Punch is riotous as Elizabeth’s competition and while her contribution to the film is not necessarily something that was needed, it is still good for a few laughs as she attempts to sabotage Elizabeth’s career. We also have John Michael Higgins who plays the principal but doesn’t really bring anything to the table. The kids do and fine job as they are becoming scarred for life throughout the course of being taught by Elizabeth. Last but not least, we have Eric Stonestreet, who delivers one of the funniest scenes early in the movie while portraying Elizabeth’s cranky yet seriously funny roomate. While some of the supporting cast don’t do any good, they bring enough humor to the film.

The film is in no way a masterpiece though. There are many jokes that fall flat and the predictable factor of the film seems a bit annoying. A huge letdown from this film was that there wasn’t enough screen time for Jason Segel. His total screen time probably rounds to about ten minutes (maybe less). That was a disappointment to me because I’m a big fan of Jason Segel (most notably for his portrayal of Marshall Eriksen on CBS’s hit-comedy How I Met Your Mother and his lead role as Peter in Nicholas Stoller’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall). I think they should have given Timberlake less screen time and Segel more. Nothing against Timberlake, I loved him in The Social Network but I believe that Segel is a better and funnier actor who has a tendency to produce laughs more during films (I’m comparing Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Social Network).

Aside from the negativity this film has to offer, there is a bunch of fun included, especially the car wash scene, which did something that comedy movies don’t tend to do nowadays, it made me laugh out loud. There are so many great jokes and the movie has its offensively side-splitting vulgar humor and a few unforgettable moments, primarily the fight between Russell and Sean, which I still ended up laughing at despite the fact that it was in all of the trailers. I additionally would like to point out (if I haven’t done so) that even at the end of the film, audiences most likely will still dislike Elizabeth, but this didn’t stop me from enjoying it, it actually adds to the fun of her character.

This film was directed by Jake Kasdan, who previously directed the fictional musical biopic Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, which was vastly underrated in my eyes (especially considering the talent involved). This time, Kasdan has a smaller budget and a more simplified plot, by no means does that make it bad, even though it can’t amount to the laughter that came from watching Walk Hard, but Bad Teacher is still a very solid comedy and puts it’s big named leads to good use (despite Jason Segels lack of screen time). The film was written by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, who have written several episodes of The Office and are rumored to be writing the next Ghostbusters film, along with Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis.

By now I can say that I had a good time viewing Bad Teacher. While it is not the most funniest comedy out there, it is definitely something new and original that packs the right amount of raunch and doesn’t have much heart, but has a bunch of memorable quotes thanks to a smartly written script with great performances from Diaz, Segel, and Timberlake that make this film the overall success that it turned out to be.

Amy: That’s bonkers!

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