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Bad Teacher

A Failing Grade

The premise of Bad Teacher had a lot going for it. In the era of raunchy comedy for the sake of being raunchy, Bad Teacher actually has a reason to be filthy — it’s about a teacher who blatantly doesn’t care. She’s raunchy because she wants to be. While rating a film merely on its filth factor is remiss, the film does squander a lot of potential, whether it be story, characters, or a great line up of actors.

What you see in the trailer is what you get, and that’s unfortunate because it seems like director Jake Kasdan has been on the verge of breaking out for quite some time (his criminally underrated Orange County debuted in 2002). But Bad Teacher feels like another comedy made bland by too many hands in one basket, reducing it to a strong outline of what the film should have been.

Cameron Diaz is Elizabeth Halsey, a teacher that hates her job and does the bare minimum. In the meantime she’s looking for any rich man to bankroll her expensive tastes. At school, she comes across the new substitute, and very rich, Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake) who’s now firmly in her sights. But perfect teacher Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch), who also has a crush on Mr. Delacorte, begins to notice Miss Halsey’s lack of a work ethic, and gym teacher Russell Gettis (Jason Segel) gets involved as he sets out to woo Ms. Halsey himself.

Where the film really drops the ball is that no character seems to have any motivation apart from Miss Squirrel, who wants Miss Halsey gone for, well, being a bad teacher. Cameron Diaz’s character never seems to grow and the film really goes nowhere. Jason Segel, billed as a top actor, is only in a handful of scenes. His character feels oddly cut out, and most of the film feels heavily edited.

Bad Teacher wants to be a cross between the school-yard fun of School of Rock and the filthiness of Bad Santa, but it lacks what made both of those films great — strong, compelling characters that go through a meaningful journey to figure out who they really are.

Elizabeth Halsey is just a lazy, foul-mouthed gold digger. She has no real motivations for being the way she is, other than that she’s lazy and doesn’t mind being a trophy wife. There’s no growth, no sense of real stakes, and minimal tension. It has its fair share of amusing moments and laughs, but its wholly underwhelming considering the talent involved.