Film Review: Bad Teacher

29 July 2011

Written by: Erdem Koc

With Cameron Diaz shamelessly embracing the title role, Bad Teacher is a flick worth leaving the couch for.  However I would advise parents to leave the kids at home, as this teacher is certainly not one to be taking lessons from.

Bad Teacher begins with Elizabeth Halsey’s (Cameron Diaz) return to Middle School teaching after her fiancé, having discovered her gold digging ways, breaks off their engagement. Throughout the film, Halsey’s endeavor to find a husband takes priority over her students’ education. Through drug and alcohol abuse, all whilst sitting behind her classroom desk, Halsey displays a complete disregard for her role as an educator; much to the disapproval of fellow teacher and antagonist, Amy Squirrel (Lucy Bunch).

Yet, when the opportunity to make a $5,000 bonus and possibly gain breast implants arises, Halsey becomes determined to win, forcing her to begin teaching her students. With this newfound determination, but the same sense of right and wrong (or lack there of), Halsey continually breaks the rules in order to get what she wants, further increasing the tension between herself and Squirrel and assuring audiences that she truly is a bad teacher.

Clever dialogue paired with the believable and seemingly effortless onscreen chemistry between the charming Cameron Diaz and co-star Jason Segel makes Bad Teacher an enjoyable film to watch. The ease each line is spoken with proves that both can hold their own as comedians.

Also noteworthy is the sheer lack of chemistry created between Halsey and Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake). Director Jake Kasdan’s choice to do this illustrates the lengths that Halsey will go to ditch teaching, or labour of any kind.

Though morally unstable, it is this very element, the unapologetic nature of Diaz’s character, which stops this intentionally naughty film from becoming an M-rated afternoon special.

The film however, is not without its flaws. Though the impressive ensemble cast use every pun, action and scenario to their advantage, the storyline overall is slightly unbalanced.  Much of the film centres around Elizabeth Halsey’s corrupt behavior, emphasising a point over an hour which was successfully made within the first thirty minutes.

However, in saying this, the film eventually finds its feet. Whilst staying true to the self-centred, immoral nature of the character initially shown, Diaz is able to also humanise her, making this incredibly bad teacher likeable without contradicting the naughtiness that viewers are so vigorously invited to believe.

This point also runs true for several other characters. In unlikely situations, it is the consistent way in which each character is scripted and portrayed that allows particular scenes and scenarios to appear believable to audience members.

A film is always more enjoyable when you forget that it’s scripted and Bad Teacher succeeds in making us forget.

Bad Teacher is offensive, crude and most definitely not appropriate for people of all ages… then again, I think that’s the point.

Timothy Arendshorst is a first-year student studying the Bachelor of Journalism at La Trobe University.