Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
I have to admit, over the last few years, I've kind of lost my affection for Cameron Diaz as a comedic actor. Don't get me wrong, she still looks like a million bucks in a short skirt and that fantastic smile, but I just haven't been that impressed with her ability to make me laugh. Which is why I was so categorically left dumbfounded by how aggressively great Diaz is in BAD TEACHER, in which she plays Elizabeth Halsey, a gold-digging horror show of a woman with zero ambition beyond finding a man to take care of her and getting a new pair of tits to aid her in her pursuit.
When we meet Elizabeth, she's leaving her teaching position after one whole year to get married, but when she returns home after her final day at school, she finds her groom-to-be (and his mother) ready to kick her out. Skip ahead three months, and Elizabeth is back at school, much to the delight of gym teacher Russell Gettis (Jason Segel), who has a cute habit of asking her out all the time. With her heart set on new breasts to ensnare a man, Elizabeth starts a campaign to earn money however she can to pay for them, while still look for the right guy, who enters her life in the form of substitute teacher Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), who in turn is crushing hard on Amy Squirrel (the great Lucy Punch), Elizabeth's arch nemesis across the hall.
Beyond the journey to get money by any means necessary, there isn't much more of an actual story to BAD TEACHER, and that's actually okay. Director Jake Kasdan (ZERO EFFECT, WALK HARD, several episodes of "Freaks and Geeks") has something more ambitious in mind. He actually wants us to care about these characters, and Diaz plays Elizabeth like she was shot out of a smart and sexy cannon. She's not only great at insulting everyone in her path like a virtuoso, but when she figures out how more funds might be acquired, she turns on something inside her that goes from bitch to charming and seductive. It's truly enjoyable watching the transformations. I especially loved Diaz's scenes with "The Office's" Phyllis Smith's Lynn, a fellow teacher who seems to have some issues with assertiveness and possibly dual personalities.
Diaz herself has rarely expressed such rousing confidence, and I love when you can see the gears grinding as Elizabeth cooks up a new scheme. And there is almost nothing she won't do or say for a laugh. One of her first lines is something like, "Get yourself hard, honey. I'm going to suck your dick like I'm angry at it." Such a lady. Diaz is so strong, in fact, that she overshadows the men in her life. Segel is quite funny here, but he's only given to us in small, supporting-role quantities. Meanwhile Timberlake plays things kind of safe as the straight man to the two outrageous women who feel for him. There's a sequence involving sex with all your clothes on that I still can't get out of my mind, no matter how hard I try. I also liked the performance by John Michael Higgins as the school's principal and Thomas Lennon as a guy Diaz is forced to get close to to make the system work for her.
What I especially liked about BAD TEACHER is that it even as Halsey learns to loosen her restrictions on getting a certain kind of guy, etc., she never wusses out and becomes the best teacher the world has ever seen. But on top of all else, this movie is loaded with a great deal of laughs and wildly inappropriate behavior, made all the more so by the presence of young minds. I laughed often and loudly at this one, and I think you will do. I'd say I was surprised by how much I like this film, but I have a great deal of confidence in Kasdan, and Diaz seems reinvigorated. Plus, she still looks stunning and completely doable. There are few weak ends in BAD TEACHER, and the elements that work do so more than I ever would have expected. This is a solid R-rated comedy that deserves a great deal of your attention this weekend. Class dismissed.
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