‘Bad Teacher’ Review

Published 3 years ago by , Updated March 3rd, 2014 at 7:06 am,

Bad Teacher Reviews Bad Teacher Review

Screen Rant’s Kofi Outlaw Reviews Bad Teacher

The first question you should probably ask yourself is whether or not the premise of Bad Teacher is something you can even accept. If you’re the type of person to be easily offended by the idea of a teacher abusing the education system and her students – or the type to get stuck on the question of how a person with few scruples and no morals gets hired as a middle school teacher in the first place, then this film will be impossible for you to enjoy.

However, if these aforementioned quandaries don’t bother you a bit, then Bad Teacher will likely deliver the kind of laughs you’re expecting – and even a few you aren’t. Does that make this film a comedy classic? Hardly.

The “story” revolves around Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz), a pretty little man-eater who claws her way out of the drudgery of teaching by snagging a wealthy fiancée. As you can imagine, things don’t go according to plan (and I stress the word “plan”) and Elizabeth finds herself right back in teaching hell at John Adams Middle School (J.A.M.S.). Needless to say, she doesn’t react favorably to having her dreams of the good life dashed.

Enter Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), the heir to a watchmaker fortune, who just so happens to have a passion for substitute teaching (go figure). In Scott, Elizabeth sees her next meal ticket to a life of luxury, only there’s one issue: Scott seems to favor women with a certain bust size that Liz can’t match. Plastic surgery to the rescue.

Of course boob-jobs are pricey, so Elizabeth focuses her efforts on using her position as a teacher to scheme up money any way she can. But the clock is ticking: a rival teacher – the psychotically perky Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) – is closing in on snagging Scott for herself, as well as the fat annual bonus awarded to the teacher whose students score highest on state exams. However, Liz isn’t the type of girl to back down from a challenge. By hook, a lot of crook, and maybe even some actual teaching, she is determined to get her money, her boobs, and subsequently, her man.

This sort of “quest” structure allows Bad Teacher to do the only thing it does well: treat viewers to a collection of segments in which the cast is able to get zany and over-the-top in their delivery of the funny. Each of the characters is seriously strange, and the movie has a lot more “WTF?” type laughs than “LMAO!” type laughs. The best example of this is Lucy Punch as Amy Squirrel; Punch has an undeniable talent for playing weird, and her character easily steals the show.

Cameron Diaz Lucy Punch Bad Teacher Movie Bad Teacher Review

Diaz and Punch in 'Bad Teacher'

Supporting actors like The Office star Phyllis Smith and John Michael Higgins (The Break-Up) make the other administrators at J.A.M.S. just as strangely kooky to watch. The exception is Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), who plays a gym teacher/love interest with his trademark likable average Joe persona. Segel does a particularly good job of adding some subtle, leveling wit to all the wacky proceedings around him.

As the headliners, Diaz and Timberlake do pretty fair to good jobs in their roles. Diaz gets to play naughty throughout the film, but still manages to work some charms to make Elizabeth a likeable (enough) protagonist. Although, if your brain cells happen to flicker while watching her, Elizabeth can be a frustrating question mark of a character. The girl is painted as being cunning, clever, fearless, shameless, lazy, vapid, sharp, immoral, unethical, tough-loving, vain and insecure all at once. How Liz became a teacher, or why she doesn’t use a better profession as the launch pad for her money schemes are questions best avoided. Do such contradictions in character matter in a movie like this? You decide.  Ironically enough, despite all the vulgarity and insanity, this is probably one of the least annoying roles that Diaz has played in years.

Timberlake does a good job sending up his own celebrity image; Scott Delacorte is like an impersonation of Justin Timberlake, done by someone who thinks Justin Timberlake is a total tool. Scenes where Delacorte busts an awkward move on the dance floor, or tries to serenade a young lady with a terrible folk-pop ballad are especially winking and funny. A whacked-out “love scene” between Diaz and Timberlake (a former offscreen couple) is almost too meta for comfort.

Bad Teacher was written by The Office scribes Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, who were also responsible for the reprehensible film, Year One. Like that botched experiment, Bad Teacher uses a loose, open premise (a simplistic mission, quest or journey) to create space for some episodic comedy. The movie plays like a series of skits or segments rather than a single unwinding narrative, but there is enough connective tissue to make it somewhat cohesive.

Bad Teacher red band trailer Bad Teacher Review

Diaz, Segel and Timberlake in 'Bad Teacher'

The characters (while in a lot of ways static and one-note) still manage to go through some kind of development over the course of the school year, with Liz in particular ending up in a very different place than where we initially find her. Again, whether or not this transition is believable is something I’ll let you decide. I did expect this movie (given its title) to be a bit more hardcore with its raunch and vulgarity, but the tone was more weird and awkward than shocking or offensive.

The direction by Jake Kasdan (Freaks and Geeks, Orange County) is crisp and clean, and the visuals are surprisingly rich and vivid for a movie like this; the production values were a lot higher than I expected. The pace never dragged too much, and whenever one segment of Elizabeth’s scheming was done, another segment was speedily introduced in order to keep us laughing – and keep us from thinking too hard about the utter absurdity of what we are watching.

If a few good laughs are all you’re after, this movie will deliver what you expect it to, and may even throw in the bonus of a few surprise giggles. If you’re one of those viewers who prefers your comedy to be smart, balanced by heart, or even just logical, you’ll probably want to pass on this one in theaters.

Help to make up your mind by watching the trailer for Bad Teacher below:

Bad Teacher is now playing in theaters everywhere.

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Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

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  1. I came in to it with really low expectations and ended up laughing more than I thought I would. There were definitely more than a few surprise laughs as well. I agree, though, it’s no comedy classic, but it is worth one movie ticket if you know what you’re gonna get.

  2. like “Horrible Bosses”, one paper, this sounds like a bad, if not forgettable, movie.

    But the more trailers i see for it, the more i wanna check it out. I’ll probably see this in the day time when tickets are half price

    • That’s a smart call, nowehereman.

  3. Probably going to see this w a friend this weekend. Great Review Kofi

  4. Not planning on seeing this but I highly recommend the documentary “Waiting For Superman” about the American education system. It’s possible “Bad Teacher” may have been inspired by it.

    • Waiting for Superman was brilliant. I really wish it opened more eyes to the problems facing the education system.

  5. Just saw this today and was horrified. I really like Cameron Diaz but this story sucked! I didn’t like her character at all and wanted her to get fired. Some of it was funny and I did like how Diaz was honest (brutally at times) to her students but my dislike of her character superceded all of that. The fact that she didn’t get punished for her misdeeds at all but the “good” teacher who tries to get her fired (rightfully so) is made me very angry at the end of this movie. I know this is supposed to be lighthearted fun but when a character as dislikable as Halsey comes along I don’t want them to come out on top unless they have learned their lessons/paid for their ways. She did neither. Kudos to some great comedic moments but just disgusting how an self-absorbed a-hole is the one we are supposed to be rooting for.

    • …As stated in the opening paragraphs of this review: If you can’t accept the idea of this kind of character then best to save your money and avoid this movie.

  6. Does Jason Segal put on a bad teacher power ring at the end to set up a sequel? HOW COULD YOU GIVE THIS 2.5 STARS RAAAAGE NOM NOM

    • In all seriousness though, it looks like they packed enough things that I like into this movie, that I will probably see it. Swearing, dirty jokes, pretty celebrities, yelling at children. You know me so well Hollywood, you deserve my $10.

  7. I saw this movie, last night. Though Cameron D’s character was rude and crude, I thought the whole storyline was great. The characters were well developed and had me wanting to know more about who they really are. I left the movie theater smiling, feeling joy and warmth within my soul.
    I woke up today wanting to go to the nearest middle school, and starting a committee to support our local teachers and subs.
    Cameron’s character taught me to love teachers who hate their jobs and celebrate the public school system. However, I absolutely was disgusted by Justin T’s character. I felt nauseated and ill whenever he was on screen. What kind of guy, who is wealthy, would “sub” in a public school? Totally unrealistic and offensive….I give this movie one thumbs up and a rating of 12 stars out of 16. Good movie over all. Please watch the movie!!

    • Saying that you find it ‘offensive’ that a wealthy person would sub at a public school is the weirdest thing I’ve read this week.

  8. Just watched it and honestly I liked it a lot. Much better than Hangover 2 or Bridesmaids IMO. I don’t even like Cameron Diaz I usually hate her work, but she did well in here. Jason Segal of course steals the show, but he usually does. I laughed through most of the film.

    The premise isn’t that hard to accept sadly. There are hundreds of teachers just like her that are real. Go to new york they get their own special room just to hang out in all day and get paid. Sad commentary on our educational system. I wish I could say that Bad Teacher is far fetched and impossible to believe, but sadly it’s not either. Not only is it plausible it actually happens.

    3.5/5 for me.

    • I teach in NYC every night to people struggling to improve their lives. Its not a lot of sitting around, IMHO.

      • Kofi you clearly didn’t understand what I was saying.

        I didn’t say every teacher in New York is just sitting around. I’m saying that in New York some schools have class rooms of nothing but bad teachers sitting around. They have teachers that are so awful, but that they can’t fire that they just stuff them all in a room and let them hang out for the school day. It’s not an opinion this is a fact and it actually happens. It’s well documented and they even cover it a bit in Waiting For Superman. I’m not accusing you or any other random teacher of being lazy or bad.

        Look it up the information is well documented and shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone anymore. There are teachers in New York city being paid 80K a year to sit in a room with other teachers and read a news paper simply because the school can’t fire them.

  9. Saw it today for free, and I feel like I got robbed. The guy who was a physical education teacher and the kids were the only bright spots.

    ***** POSSIBLE MINOR SPOILER *****
    I kept wondering why someone trying to save up money has all these drugs lying around.
    ***** END SPOILER *****

    Also, I didn’t get the feeling that Delacort only preferred busty women; he dated 1 woman with large breasts but I never got the feeling that’s all he preferred. I give it 2/5.

    • They had a scene in which Diaz is taring at Amy Squirrel’s breast size when she starts to court Delacort. She also had boobs. We don’t know if that’s what Delcort was like, or if that was just Liz’s insecurity. We do know Delacort did have some weird sexual preferences for sure.

      As for the drugs… like I said. Best not to think too hard about LIz as a character. You do and it all comes apart at the seams.

  10. an hour and a half of my life i will never get back. i love when i spend ten bucks on a movie ticket to see a movie that they already put out for free in the trailers. pity laughs at best…..don’t waste your time.

  11. Bad teacher was just plain horrible. It seems the only point to the movie was to push every boundary possible.
    By the end, I was not amused, even though there were moments of levity, the previews for this movie were so much better than the movie itself.

  12. my sister and I went to see Bad Teacher and thought it was trashy and put down the teaching community as a whole because our father was one, so don’t waste your money !!!

  13. Don’t waste your money.

  14. Bad Review is a film that’s basically about a superficial and materialistic woman who is amazingly immoral. Throughout the film, she breaks the law, helps her students cheat because she is a failure of her teacher, drives her students to work excessively hard to cover up for her failings, takes marijuana, and spends the early half of the film trying to earn the money to get as boob job so she can seduce a wealthy substitute teacher who, if not for his money, she wouldn’t spend a second looking at.

    Her rival happens to be a somewhat perky and annoying teacher, who attempts to expose her actions (which is the correct thing to do). At the end of it, she is punished for her efforts to uphold the law and sent to the worst school in the country.

    Elizabeth decides not to get the boob job in the end, and dumps the rich substitute teacher, perhaps maybe to show that she has changed, but from a viewer’s perspective, it makes the first half of the movie awfully redundant. What was the point of cheating the education system, drugging a man and blackmailing him to avoid punishment if at the end, you decide not to get the boob job, not to get with the substitute teacher?

    Elizabeth, is, in short, a Karma Houndini. She has made life worse for nearly everyone she has met, and at the end of it she walks away smiling, while a well-intentioned teacher is sent off to a school, where her career is percievably ruined.

    This movie is good for a few laughs, I will admit, but if you plan to watch this, do so without bothering to really think about it. Just be entertained by it, because any sort of approach will result in a bad after-taste in your mouth.

  15. This was all kinds of Bad. Yikes.
    Every character was extremely unlikable with exception of the gym teacher, who rarely got any mug time which was odd since he was supposed to be a key character (or so you’d think).

    On the very small bright side – Diaz looked gorgeous (and Im not a fan of hers or think she’s particularly attractive), perhaps she just looks better tramped up. :-D
    There were a few (very few) select scenes towards the middle and end that caught me off guard and I laughed a little out loud.

    The good doesnt outweight the bad – it wasnt enough to justify sitting through the whole movie, and if I wasnt so bored with nothing else to do yesterday I would have quit 20 minutes into it. As I reflect and try as I may to produce one, there really were no redeeming qualities to her character.

  16. I can’t believe how bad this film is. Aside from a poor and unbelievable storyline, the sexual politics are truly appalling. An awful, awful film. Awful.