There is so much potential in “Bad Teacher”, a raunchy comedy starring Cameron Diaz as a gold-digging alcoholic who manages to worm her way into a job as a middle-school English teacher. It has a terrific cast, including Justin Timberlake as an effete substitute with family money, Lucy Punch as Elizabeth’s competent nemesis, and Jason Segel as a mensch gym teacher. It has Diaz playing off-type, as an unlikable, unpleasant and irredeemable bitch. It’s writers cut their teeth writing for “The Office”. It has all the makings of a good summer comedy.

Which is why it’s so frustrating that through the entire two hours the movie never reaches its own potential.

Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Written by: Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Lucy Punch, Justin Timberlake
Rated: R

Most of the jokes in “Bad Teacher” are just expected enough and just off their rhythm enough to be dead in the water. And every time the movie seizes on something that works (like a study session in which Diaz’s character throws dodge balls at students when they answer a question incorrectly) it cuts off too early or veers away to a much less funny bit involving Timberlake dry-humping in jeans. In some cases it’s impossible to explain why the joke isn’t funny- at a couple points I almost began to laugh because I knew I should, before realizing that I didn’t actually want to.

Not that the cast doesn’t try. If you had told me in the 1998 that Justin Timberlake was going to become one of the most interesting, original and slyly funny entertainers in Hollywood I would have told you to throw out your N’Sync album and get your head together. Timberlake does his best in this, stripping his character of all humor and self-awareness until he is just a pleasant cipher in a Polo sweater-vest. And British comedian Punch exudes a quiet malevolence- the yin to Diaz’s zany, foul-mouthed yang. But their efforts fall victim to the sub-par writing, and general tone of malaise. While the actors appear to have shown up to work, the director and editor seem to be phoning it in.

My first thoughts after leaving the film was it wasn’t that bad. Worth the $10 at least. But it had the potential for so much more than the vague, forgettable thing it became. I would love to see a movie with Cameron Diaz as a filthy, manipulative sociopath who drives a middle school staff to madness. I just don’t really want to see this one again.

About The Author

Emma Johnson is a Blast Magazine critic whose work has appeared in The Boston Globe

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.