Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Premise: An outrageously irresponsible woman (Cameron Diaz) takes a job as an elementary school teacher. Her careless demeanor puts her into conflict with the rest of the staff.
What Works: The supporting characters of Bad Teacher are the most interesting part of the film. Actors Lucy Punch, Phyllis Smith, and Jason Segel contribute a lot to the film and had Bad Teacher been an ensemble piece like the television show The Office and focused on the kooky culture of the school, the film could have been comedy gold. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do that.
What Doesn’t: Bad Teacher is a poorly conceived film. It focuses on a lead character who is superficial and unsympathetic and her bad behavior is the gag that is supposed to sustain the film. But this sets Bad Teacher up with an inherent problem. In order for the story to sustain a feature length, the character has to change from an embarrassment to a conscientious member of the community. But to make that change, the character loses the very quality that makes her interesting to watch, so the film works counterproductively. The filmmakers behind Bad Teacher try to have it both ways and the film doubly suffers for it because the change in Cameron Diaz’s character is never wholehearted or meaningful but the film also never gives itself over to the joys of misbehavior. This tension starves the humor of the film and although Bad Teacher is barely ninety minutes long, there are very few laughs. Crude humor has become the norm in the comedy genre but the film has a limited imagination for troublemaking. The gags that Bad Teacher does come up with, such as smoking marijuana on campus, showing up to work hung over, screening R-rated movies in class, or dressing for a school carwash like a female extra in a Whitesnake music video—and reusing these gags over and over again—do not compete with the audacity featured in the comedies that Bad Teacher emulates and competes with. More significantly, films like Bridesmaids or The Hangover were cast with characters that the audience could invest in and care about. The cast of Bad Teacher never elicit any kind of reaction except revulsion and when the laugh over the film’s initial premise subsides, the remainder of the picture is a continuous string of terrible people saying and doing stupid or awful things.
Bottom Line: Bad Teacher is a terrible film. It shows no imagination and fails even as a bawdy comedy. It isn’t funny or even shocking, just stupid.
Episode: #347 (July 10, 2011)