Directed by Jake Kasdan. Starring Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Justin Timberlake, Lucy Punch, Thomas Lennon, Phyllis Smith. (2011, R, 89 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., July 1, 2011
Elizabeth Halsey (Diaz), a bitchy stoner and supposed educator, shouldn't sell herself short: "Bad teacher" barely scratches the surface of her accomplishments. She's a bad fiancée, rightly dumped in the film's opening minutes for being a gold digger. She's a bad feminist; post-breakup, her plan B is to raise enough cash to buy bigger tits – the better to snare "a man who will take care of me," she figures. Broadly speaking, she's just a bad person – a liar, an embezzler, a master manipulator. Fun stuff, I tell ya. Diaz wisely sidesteps her good-times-gal public persona to kickily embody a human-sized callus that’s impervious to emotion, a cancer who lays waste to everything that gets in her way. When a colleague who’s been ignored previously by Halsey cracks a spiteful joke, Diaz's eyes spark – it's as if cruelty is Halsey's aphrodisiac – and the moment is at once chilling and thrilling. The bulk of Bad Teacher isn't so subversive – Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg's script is basically Bad Santa's public-school analog – but it is consistently funny. Its trash-can humor is tasteless, no doubt, but hey, that doesn't make it unpalatable.