Movies: "Bad Teacher" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "Bad Teacher"
Movies:  "Bad Teacher"

 

Pam Smart was a really bad teacher.  In 1990, she seduced one of her New Hampshire students, age 15, and got him to murder her husband.  That’s bad.  By contrast, Elizabeth Halsey, the character played by Cameron Diaz in this new movie, is just semi-bad:  she smokes dope, drinks heavily and does all she can to avoid any actual work in her middle school classroom.

 

Coming on the heels of the far funnier and even more outrageous “Bridesmaids,” “Bad Teacher” is the latest in what may be an ongoing trend of women misbehaving in movies.  Written by Gene Stupnitsky (you can imagine what middle school was like for him with that name) and Lee Eisenberg, both of whom made their bones writing and producing for “The Office,” and directed by Jake Kasdan (“Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”), it is only moderately amusing, but does have its moments, thanks largely to its talented cast.

 

Diaz, who showed her skills as a comedienne in “There’s Something About Mary,” is winningly off-putting as the foul-mouthed teacher whose only ambition is to undergo expensive breast enlargement surgery.  She is ably assisted on-screen by two very funny ladies, Lucy Punch (“You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”) as Amy Squirrel, the exhaustingly perky teacher across the hall, and Phyllis Smith (from “The Office”) as Lynn, the endearingly frumpy colleague who admires Elizabeth’s dangerous directness.

 

As for the menfolk, there are two standouts:  Jason Segel (“Knocked Up” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) as Russell, the gym teacher you know from the start is right for Elizabeth, and Justin Timberlake, who has shown such great comedic skills on “Saturday Night Live,” as Scott Delacorte, the rich-boy substitute teacher for whom both Elizabeth and Amy set their caps.

 

There are several funny moments in “Bad Teacher,” including a 7th Grade car wash that Elizabeth manages to turn into an R-rated male fantasy, her bizarrely adolescent love scene with Delacorte and her seduction of the state employee in charge of that year’s proficiency exams.  But my favorite moments in this movie occur at the very beginning, during the titles, as actual classroom footage from all around the world is spooled against the background song “Teacher Teacher” by one of the all-time great (but short-lived) rock groups, Rockpile.  At least here, we catch a glimpse of some good teachers.

 

“Bad Teacher” isn’t bad.  It’s not that great either.  I give this one a C.  And as you might surmise, it’s rated R for all that bad behavior.

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