REVIEW: Bad Teacher

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 September, 2011, 12:00am


Starring: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel, Lucy Punch
Director: Jake Kasdan
Category: IIB

Intertextuality seems to be the key to understanding Bad Teacher: Jake Kasdan's film about a shallow, drugged-up high-school teacher pulls out all the cross-referential stops in its casting - Cameron Diaz as a desperate sexpot with fast-fading looks, Justin Timberlake as a nerd who laments about the poor singers of today, Jason Segel as a signpost for the film's nods to Judd Apatow's style of foul-mouthed comedy - and metes out pointed satire of old films such as Stand and Deliver and Dangerous Minds.

While all these characters could easily generate laughs for those in the know, the film falls short of actually bettering what it's trying to imitate or mock, with its moments of hilarity appearing undercooked and eventually giving way to a spirit as cuddly as the films it's trying to satirise.

Bad Teacher begins with roaring badness, as Kasdan introduces the misdemeanour of Miss Halsey (Diaz): with her focus more on earning enough to get a breast-enhancement job - the one thing she believes will allow her to land a rich husband - she shows complete indifference to her job and her charges, as she doesn't hold back in lavishing her students with politically incorrect missives while searching for school funds for her own benefit. Having just been dumped by her fianc?, she has designs on the young and affluent substitute teacher Scott Delacorte (Timberlake), whose gentle character also attracts the attention of Halsey's annoyingly squeaky-clean colleague Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch).

Looking on with a smirk is the laddish gym teacher Russell (Segel, below with Diaz) who, unsurprisingly perhaps, becomes the film's moral compass and the fulcrum on which Halsey embarks on the discovery of something more relevant to life than just cash and chest-sizes.

Like a riposte to Dangerous Minds - the Michelle Pfeiffer film Halsey shows to her students, and whose title song is used on Bad Teacher's soundtrack, her shopping with the money she generates from secretly pawning the school's equipment - this film is explicit in damning the hackneyed, feel-good visions of good teachers converting misbehaving students with self-sacrifice; as the finale nears, norms return and the film becomes yet another exercise about the bad learning to do good, only the bad apple here happens to be the teacher who learns with her students to appreciate goodness.

Diaz puts in a laudable performance that yields a surprising comic flair from her, but she's not given enough to work with asides from the film's flimsy superficial gags.

Bad Teacher opens today