I’ve always liked Cameron Diaz, who brings a spark to every part she plays, but she’s only as good as her material, and Bad Teacher is bad news for her and her fans. I was wary going in, as I tend to be whenever a Hollywood movie announces through its advertising how “outrageous” it’s going to be. The only outrageous thing about Bad Teacher is that director Jake Kasdan and two writers who earned an Emmy nomination for television’s The Office (Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg) could turn out such an obvious, heavy-handed, unfunny comedy.
To cite an example, I have to spoil one of its jokes—but believe me, it’s no loss. In the movie’s most—
—excerpted scene, Diaz takes over the school’s fund-raising car wash and shows up in short-shorts, looking terrifically sexy. All the fathers on hand stare in wonder and amazement, and so do the local cops. Then we see one of the male students, equally
transfixed; the camera pans down to reveal that he has an erection.
That’s the joke. There’s no sight gag, or surprising reveal. It’s about as obvious—and lazy—as you can get, and the same can be said for the rest of the picture. From the first scene to the last, we’re supposed to find it uproariously funny that all the teachers at the school are clueless square-heads, including the principal. Ha.
All of these characters are played broadly, forcing people like Lucy Punch, John Michael Higgins, Thomas Lennon, and even Justin Timberlake to mug as if this were a bad high-school play. Only Diaz and Jason Segel, as a gym teacher, get to be sly.
I realize that wit is no longer valued in mainstream Hollywood comedies, but this film is witless, in every sense of that word, and I find that extremely discouraging.