Director: Jake Kasdan
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel, Lucy Punch, Phyllis Smith
Synopsis: Elizabeth Hasley (Diaz) is an English teacher whose only career goal is to find a rich husband so she can live a care-free life of luxury. After her engagement to one such affluent male disintegrates, Hasley lies and cheats her way through the school year, getting money any way possible for a boob job, which is how she intends to snag her next rich fool. She sets her eyes on fellow teacher Scott Delacorte (Timberlake), heir to a watchmaker’s fortune.
It was only barely that I managed to stop myself for listing the title of this post as Bad
Movie Teacher, but a more professional stance on the review won out in the end. With most films that I watch, even those panned by other reviewers, I am able to extract something positive to comment about with a film, and as such I try to balance out the good and the bad with my commentary. Unfortunately, this is one film that I really struggled to do so with.
The main problem with this film is that it struggles with comparison, and given the title of the film, it is actually a comparison the film maker’s must have been striving for. The 2003 Billy Bob Thornton vehicle Bad Santa was a surprise hit, taken a beloved childhood figure and subverting it with the most crude, vile version of it that you can think. Bad teacher definitely had the potential to do the same. Unfortunately, comparing it with Bad Santa, two things stand out. The first is that the material was not handled very well. Given the performances themselves are pretty decent, one feels that this is either a scripting issue, or mishandled direction. What also is clear is that the film was not vile enough to send it into such an absurd level as to separate it from reality and make the audience feel comfortable to laugh at it.
On the few occasions that the film does break the boundaries of taste, it shows what could have been a brilliant film. Some of Diaz’s one-liners are so foul and unexpected that they do end up hilarious. Unfortunately, all the other character’s around her are too clean, and when they do show an evil streak, it is just creepy. This is the case for almost every scene with villain Amy Squirrell (Punch), whom is so psychotic one cannot believe she can actually maintain a consistent teaching job. Her clear Bad Santa parallel, security guard Bernie Mac, was more sinister, whilst also being a fool, whereas Punch’s appearance on-screen quickly becomes irritating. Similarly, love interest Timberlake is just inexplicably weird. To once again draw a parallel, Lauren Graham’s love interest for Billy Bob was had a sympathetic foulness to her f-buddy Santa that somehow really works.
So as you can see, the plots are almost identical between the two films, right down to the sympathetic outsider kid that the titular foul authority figure befriends and eventually assists. No attempt was really made to create a new film, even if the idea was to use a similar concept. In the end, this is a Bad Santa with a female lead inserted, except with the humour heavily diluted. My advice is don’t waste your time, just go back to the source material and enjoy that instead.
1 star out of 5