BAD TEACHER. 92 mins. R. Directed by Jake Kasdan. Written by Gene Stupnitsky & Lee Eisenberg.
Call it the summer of the R-rated comedy. Hot on the heels of Bridesmaids and The Hangover Part II comes Bad Teacher, an agreeably crude and entertaining time waster with a few solid laughs up its sleeve. The movie is populated with a series of unlikeable characters, each more stupid and detestable than the next, but that ends up being a good thing.
Though it's not a sequel to 2003's Bad Santa, the two films do share a kindred spirit in that both feature drunken, profane adult authority figures mixing it up inappropriately with kids. If Bad Teacher falls way short of Santa's mark, it's because the script never really surprises.
Cameron Diaz stars as Elizabeth Halsey, a raging alcoholic, drug abusing misanthrope who has no business being in a classroom full of kids. After separating from her rich momma's boy husband, she decides to get a boob job. Around the same time, she becomes smitten by the new substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake), and becomes even more intent on padding on the fun bags no matter what the cost or who she has to steamroll along the way. This doesn't sit well with the goody two-shoes teacher at her school (a go-for-broke Lucy Punch), and the two strike up an escalating rivalry that threatens to take one or both of them down.
The very game cast do their part, trying to wring the last drop of funny out of every scene (even if there isn't any there). I wasn't inspired by the casting of Cameron Diaz going in, but she really does a nice job of being completely bitchy and detestable. And yet, despite never stooping to get the audience to care for her character, that's exactly what happens by the end. A tricky act to pull off, sure, but Diaz does it.
She shares some good chemistry with Jason Segel, as the school's gym coach and her dogged paramour. Segel is in relaxed, confident mode (like he was in I Love You, Man), and it really suits him well. JT has a fun dry humping scene, but is mostly underused, especially when you consider all that he pulls off on SNL each time he hosts.
Some may be turned off by the amount of jokes that were spoiled by the previews - the "Twilight" and "LeBron" bits have seen constant rotation in the various ads and trailers. But, this being an R-rated comedy, there is still a healthy amount that a green-band trailer can't show you. Director Jake Kasdan keeps things moving, but never really establishes a distinct visual style, or unique tone. Still, he does manage to keep the comedy consistent and never lets things devolve into the unbelievable realm or the characters behave out of, well, character (ahem, Bridesmaids, ahem).
If Bad Teacher is good for anything, it's as further proof that female-centered crude comedies have a place in Hollywood and that audiences will show up if the product is there. Plus, it gets bonus points for casting John Michael Higgins (Best In Show, The Late Shift) as the principal. Higgins is a welcome addition in any moive. On the whole, this Teacher may not give an "F", but it gets by with a passing grade of "B-."