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Bad Teacher

A movie directed by Jake Kasdan

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She's Bad!

  • Feb 11, 2012
Who said Cameron Diaz couldn't act? In Bad Teacher, she turns in a performance which is as remarkable for Diaz's portrayal of complete, uncaring depravity as it is for her awesome, finely honed comedic chops. Diaz pulls no punches whatsoever as the lead character, Elizabeth Halsey, a scumbucket of a human being who has somehow convinced the faculty of the local middle school that she's the best teacher who ever lived. Her performance is on par in its no-holds-barred grit and against-type derring-do with Will Smith's angry anti-superhero in Hancock, a performance in which we see none of the big movie star's regular character.

Elizabeth Halsey is not an angry toughie with a heart of gold. Trying to shine the lump of frozen coal in her heart would only result in lighting it on fire. Oh, she certainly seems nice enough in her firs appearance when she accepts an award for her yearlong work as a substitute teacher, but the second she gets home and opens the door, walking in to her boyfriend, she's talking about the sexual act she plans to perform on him later. The boyfriend's visiting mother hears her, because she's come over to help the boyfriend - who is quite rich, by the way - throw Elizabeth out. Elizabeth keeps running up the shopping bills; 16 grand last month alone! And she didn't even remember his birthday! And so Elizabeth, a relentless and unapologetic gold digger who knows what she is and makes no bones about her choice of lifestyle, is robbed of her dreams of a life as husband's sweet princess, being doted on head and foot on the occasions she's not running up the credit card bill.

Back to school she goes! As the teacher! She knows how people are too, and she invokes sympathy by portraying the ex as a cheater. He cheated on her with another man. He cheated on her with his dog, he cheated on her with his sister... Anyway, Elizabeth's new primary life goal is a pair of breast implants, especially when she catches a glance of the new yearlong substitute teacher, Scott, whom she's eyeing as a rebound fling. But Scott is crushing on - and later starts a relationship with - another teacher named Amy Squirrel.

Usually movies taking place in middle schools with students about bad, evil teachers tend to reveal hearts of gold and eventual love for their jobs and kids. That's not the case with Bad Teacher. I found it incredible how frank this movie is in pure, punishing crudeness. The teachers have lives outside that don't revolve around how much they love the kids. Elizabeth gets high on marijuana regularly, and is frequently joined by the gym teacher, Russell, and at one point she encourages an otherwise sweet teacher played by The Office's Phyllis Smith to hit a joint. She drinks, swears, and her classes for most of the movie consist of showing her students school-related movies like Stand by Me and Dangerous Minds. When she tries to raise money, she's not averse to embezzlement and running a student car wash in very skimpy clothing. And when Amy starts getting too close to her, Elizabeth starts resorting to blackmail, as well as standardized test cheating when she learns there's a nice cash reward for highest scores.

Diaz carries Bad Teacher. Her performance alone is pretty much the whole of everything likable about the movie. Jason Segel is sweet as Russell, and Lucy Punch as Amy and Justin Timberlake as Scott are excellent as well, but it's Diaz regaling us onscreen in nearly every scene. And it's actually a good thing this movie is so much hers, because it wouldn't be nearly as much fun any other way.

A LOT of people in Bad Teacher are back-alley stupid. That's I term I use to describe people who are so loud and obnoxious in spite of obvious and irrepressible stupidity that they deserve to be dragged into a back alley and beat with any blunt object within reach. The school principal and a state professor are as bad as it gets on that front. The principal in particular actually comes off like he's going to lengths to blind himself to Elizabeth's dark side. When the Police get involved later, you have to wonder why they're not checking out some of Amy's claims.

Perhaps the biggest, most confusing mistake is made by screenwriters Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitski, and director Jake Kasdan (Orange County, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story). There's a lot they don't explain, like Elizabeth's change of heart at the end. This isn't believable one bit. They - and Cameron Diaz - have gone out of their way to introduce Elizabeth as this evil, manipulative human being, and suddenly she's all well and good and popular? You can't be serious.

This mistake is alleviated by the fact that they try to make the sweet, caring Amy Squirrel into the antagonist. Amy is the polar opposite of Elizabeth in every way. Now, as she starts to break down through her constant attempts to expose Elizabeth, she starts to come off like Ed Rooney from Ferris Bueller's Day Off: Obsessed probably a bit more than she should be, but with good intentions in mind. The problem is that whereas Ferris was just a manipulative but otherwise decent kid playing hooky, Elizabeth is truly a bad person, and Diaz does so much to establish that image that the audience can't come to terms with the idea of her being redeemable. It doesn't come off like a battle of nutcase against nutcase, because by that point Amy is just an ordinary teacher who is sick of being taken advantage of and pushed over the edge. I was actually cheering for her by the end, and when she was taken away, I kept waiting for her to show back up, everyone to apologize to her, and the ultimate humiliation of Elizabeth.

Bad Teacher is good for a few quick laughs, and Diaz is so wonderful, like a female Billy Bob Thornton, that you can't help but love her. She carries this movie, and her strong performance is its main draw. Without it, nothing that happens in the climax would be acceptable within movie law.

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February 24, 2012
We went to see this in theaters, but I fell asleep...I guess I was a little too buzzed to pay attention LOL! Nice review. Maybe I will try it one more time...
More Bad Teacher reviews
review by . July 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
            I’ll not be the first to say it but Bad Teacher is bad and not in a good way. This movie suffers from the ultimate fault of bad writing. I wouldn’t be surprised if even on paper this movie remains a shallowed hollowed out shell of a dark comedy. Unlike good dark comedies that use the word Bad in the title, first of which I mention Bad Santa, Bad Teacher’s lead character Elizabeth Halsey (played by Cameron Diaz) is not as bad as she is boring …
review by . June 24, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Growing up I don't know if I ever had a teacher who didn't care one bit. All of my teachers, at the very least, could put on a show so I was none the wiser. It was tough to tell what to expect from the movie, most of the trailers just featured the same one liners that weren't all that funny to begin with. The premise was good and had the potential to be hilarious if it was written from the perspective of a disgruntled teacher, it wasn't. While expectations were low the movie still …
review by . June 25, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Bad Teacher is about a woman whose badness far exceeds her teaching. She’s rude, dishonest, manipulative, superficial, unsympathetic, and cruel. The movie should have been called Bad Person. Her name is Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz), a Chicago gold digger. The film begins with her leaving her junior high teaching position after only one year; she chose the job because of the easy opportunities to do the bare minimum, but her real dream is …
review by . June 24, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Too Cool for School
BAD TEACHER   Written by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg   Directed by Jake Kasdan   Starring Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Lucy Punch and Justin Timberlake      The movies offer a long line of great educators to draw inspiration from. There’s Edward James Olmos in Stand and Deliver; Morgan Freeman in Lean on Me; and even Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds. And while that last example might seem a bit of a stretch, she is still infinitely …
review by . June 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   15 - 92mins - Comedy - 17th June 2011 Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) has somehow found herself as a school teacher during her life when all she wants to do is grab a man with lots of money who can provide for her. With her former fiancé having worked out the truth and ditching her, Elizabeth has to return and teach for yet another school year much to her frustration. Not only does she have to teach the children but also has to keep the principal (John Michael Higgins) and …
Quick Tip by . June 29, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I'm glad that I didn't fully listen to all the naysayers here and checked this out for an afternoon matinee today. That's not to say they're wrong because this is no Hangover or even a Get Him to the Greek but, I found it a perfect brain candy movie that gave me a few laughs.      I thought JT was HILARIOUS- his Simpatico song was great and Diaz did a good job as did the other cast mates. I had never heard of Lucy Punch and thought she did an amazing job as the …
About the reviewer
Nicholas Croston ()
Ranked #17
Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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About this movie



Director: Jake Kasdan
Genre: Comedy
Release Date: 24 June 2011 (USA)
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Gene Stupnitsky, Lee Eisenberg
Runtime: 92 min
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"Reviewed: Bad Teacher [2011]"
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