After she is dumped by her fiancée due to her gold digging ways, Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) is forced to go back to her job as a middle school teacher. Halsey is anything but an ideal teacher. She spends her time showing her class movies, drinking in class, smoking pot in the parking lot, and sleeps on the job. When Halsey discovers that the new substitute teacher, Scott Delacorte (Justin Timerblake), comes from a wealth family she sees him as her ticket out. Believing that getting breast implants will help her woo Delacorte, Halsey is willing to lie, cheat, and steal her way to collecting the $10, 000 needed for the surgery. Standing in the way of her goal are the romantic advances of the school gym teacher, Russell Gettis (Jason Segel), and a colleague, Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch), who is wise to Halsey’s schemes..
There is a fair bit to like about Bad Teacher as the humour often flirts with the boundaries. Diaz does a good job of making Halsey as dislikable as possible and she also gets some great one-liners sprinkled throughout. However, her strong performance is tempered by Jake Kasdan’s uneven direction. Being a fan of Kasdan’s previous films I was expecting him to provide a little more bite to the film. Unfortunately Kasdan never lets the characters run wild like they should. He struggles to keep a certain wholesome aspect flowing throughout the film.
This is most evident in the subplot where one of Halsey’s students tries win over the girl of his affections. Moments like these allow Kasdan to show that Halsey is not necessarily a bad person, just a selfish one. It is as if Kasdan does not have faith in the audience to connect with Halsey if she was completely bad. The problem is all the best moments in the film come when Halsey is being bad. If Kasdan wanted to inject the film with a softer angle, he should have utilized Segel’s character more.
Speaking of Segel, he is sorely underused in the film. He is not only the conscious voice in the film, but he is far more inspired than Timberlake’s Delacorte. While Timberlake usually gives entertaining performances, his character runs out of steam by the halfway mark and becomes rather annoying. Segel’s comedic timing is really wasted in the film as he disappears for long segments. This also does not help the love story to develop smoothly. Fortunately Diaz provides enough laughs to at least keep Bad Teacher moving. While enjoyable at times it would have been nice if the film was as crude as it hints at being.