Bad Teacher ✮1/2
The Prime of Miss Jean Baadasssss
by Glenn Lovell
“Bad Teacher” starring Cameron Diaz is a lot like “School of Rock” with Jack Black ‒ only minus the humor, the heart, the bitchin’ rock ’n roll soundtrack.
What we’re left with is Diaz as bitch-goddess Liz Halsey, an Illinois middle-school teacher who redefines crass self-absorption: Liz’s main — make that only — goal in life is to raise enough money to buy breast implants to snag a rich, clueless husband. To this end, she pockets school car-wash money, cheats her way to a teachers’ bonus, and sits in class idly circling pix of celebrity boobs.
Other infractions include date rape, blackmail, assault and battery, frequent drug use (on campus, of course), and stealing from a family that invites her for Christmas dinner.
Yes, Miss Halsey is the anti-Louanne Johnson, that inner city teacher-crusader played by Michelle Pfeiffer in the insufferable “Dangerous Minds.”
Speaking of movie teachers, Liz gladly cedes her job to a string of them, starting with Edward James Olmos (“Stand and Deliver”) and Morgan Freeman (“Lean on Me”). As the afternoon’s “lesson” unreels, Liz, in agony, cocoons herself in her sweater. What teacher hasn’t dreamed of doing this?
Liz’s idea of touchy-feely? Loaning her bra to a dorky, lovesick seventh-grader so he’ll finally have bragging rights.
If “Bad Teacher” were a Farrelly brothers movie, it would trade on nonstop raunch and wind up simply bad. As directed by Jacob Kasdan (“Freaks and Geeks” and a handful of TV movies), it’s a bad movie with a flippant moral about re-establishing priorities ‒ and that makes it doubly bad, if not wretched.
Actually, “Bad Teacher” isn’t really a movie; it’s more of a succession of increasingly salacious sketches, most capped by Diaz dropping the f-bomb. Indeed, Diaz may establish some kind of record for onscreen profanity by an actress. Where are the Guinness folks when you need them?
The disapproving teacher across the hall is one Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch channeling Tina Fey channeling Sarah Palin). Amy, a stickler for rules, is a pro at pushing Liz’s buttons. She occasionally lets fly with a “Shut the … front door!” Justin Timberlake flits in and out as the new sub who’s rich and dim enough to warrant Liz’s attention. Jason Segel and Phyllis Smith sweeten this mostly sour concoction as the gym teacher who’s gone on Liz and a shy, indecisive teacher who gloms onto Liz. Segel’s boyish infatuation is especially welcome here.
David Paymer, once an Oscar nominee for “Mr. Saturday Night,” must be hard up for work. He appears as a beaming boob doctor who shows off his handiwork.
But mostly it’s Diaz’s opportunity to show off her sexy/bad self. If your idea of entertainment is watching her abuse students (“These cookies suck!”) and fellow staffers (with, in one instance, a poison ivy’d apple), you’ll be in potty-mouth heaven. As a teacher myself, I found this glorified standup routine good for a couple of chuckles. I may have even laughed at Liz red-penciling student essays. One paper rates a “Jesus Christ!,” another a “Are you f—ing kidding me!”
The same comments apply here.
All involved in this rude misfire ‒ a full summer of detention.
BAD TEACHER ✮1/2 Cameron Diaz, Lucy Punch, Jason Segel, Justin Timberlake. Directed by Jake Kasdan; scripted by Gene Stupnitsky, Lee Eisenberg. 92 minutes. Rated: R (for nonstop sex and toilet jokes, plus frequent use of the f-word)