Review: BAD TEACHER

BAD TEACHER 

reviewer Harry Davenport
Rated: 15 (UK)
Release Date: June 17th, 2011(UK)
DirectorJake Kasdan
CastCameron DiazLucy PunchJason SegelJustin TimberlakePhyllis Smith

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Bad Teacher tells the story of Elisabeth Halsey, a teacher who behaves disgracefully as she tries to buy herself new boobs. The film tries to be a mixture of Bad Santa and School of Rock, but unlike those it fails to tell a coherent story or be funny.

The film stars Cameron Diaz who plays a character who is indeed a bad teacher and one who is also distinctly nasty and selfish. She is rude to both co-workers and children and is repelling to watch. Via scenes showing his loneliness and depression, Billy Bob Thorton in Bad Santa is watchable and even occasionally likeable, Diaz’s character is constantly awful and fails to be relateable. Miss Halsey gets by on her good looks, and never gains insight or has a change of heart. The closest she comes to being nice is giving a boy her bra in a particularly unbelievable sequence.

Diaz fails to be funny, as does most of the cast. Justin Timberlake, who was so good in The Social Network, is dull as a sexy supply teacher. John Michael Higgins, known for his excellent and hilarious work on the Christopher Guest’s mockumentary films, is given little to work with. British actress Lucy Punch, who thus far has mainly played ditsy slutty blondes in films such as Hot Fuzz and Festival, plays Diaz’s foil; a quirky teacher who is good at her job. Punch is quite funny and it’s nice to see her play a slightly different character but much like Diaz’s it is not a likeable one.

The best performance comes from Jason Segel, who plays the gym teacher who fancies Diaz. His timing is good and does a good job at bringing some much-needed humour to the film. The major inconsistency with the character is that he likes Diaz, whom he knows to be rude and bad at her job. It is depressing to watch a nice guy strive to get the affection of a horrible woman.

Segal first made a name for himself on the TV show Freaks and Geeks, which is set in a high school during the 1980s. Jake Kasdan, who directed Bad Teacher, directed several episodes of the show including the pilot, and this is another reason the film is so disappointing. Freaks and Geeks captured the feeling of school life and, most importantly, was funny. His last film Walk Hard: the Dewey Cox Story was also amusing and featured a selfish character who we still happen to warm to.

One of the strangest things about the film is that, unlike School of Rock, Diaz isn’t a newcomer to the school she teaches in. She used to work there and left to marry a rich man but returned when it didn’t work out. Throughout the film she struggles to keep her job and you wonder how she survived before, or why she was rehired …

You can have a comedy with an unlikeable lead character, but you better make sure that the film is funny. Bad Teacher is unfunny and unpleasant.

MOVIE RATING: 1.5/5

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