Bad Teacher

In the late ’90s and early ’00s, the Farrelly Brothers cornered the market on raunchy, over-the-top comedies (Dumb & Dumber, There’s Something About Mary). Then when they faded out, Judd Apatow willingly (and successfully) picked up their torch. And now he’s passed it to one of his disciples, Jake Kasdan (son of iconic writer/director Lawrence).

Kasdan’s first film, 2002’s woefully underrated Orange County, proved that he had learned well from his master. Now, some nine years later, he’s proving it wasn’t a fluke. Bad Teacher is a laugh-out-loud, riotous comedy that will both offend and entertain, often within the same scene.

Cameron Diaz is Elizabeth Halsey, quite simply the worst person you’ll come across at the cineplex this year. She’s selfish, petty, racist, profane, and lewd– and those are among her better qualities. So it only follows that she would choose teaching as a career path (you know, ’cause of the summer vacations). Jilted by her fiancé after he discovered her true colors, Elizabeth has no choice but to return to her classroom at a Chicago-area middle school.

But what she really wants is for some rich guy to swoop in and marry her, so she can live off his money. The only problem? She realizes that she’s only an 8.5 and that to become a 10, she’s going to need a bit of chestal surgery. And so begins her quest to earn enough money (ten grand), so she can get the surgery and get a man.

See? She makes Despicable Me‘s Gru look downright angelic. And he was a cartoon.

Elizabeth’s days in the classroom consist solely of recovering from hangovers while allowing her students to watch movies (Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds… Hey, at least they’re school-related). Her nights are peppered with pot smoking and figuring out ways to score the cash.

Along the way she also has to ‘endure’ a June Cleaver-ish teacher (Lucy Punch), pedestrian gym teacher Russell (Jason Segal), and a dolphin-obsessed principal (John Michael Higgins). It’s only when she trips on wealthy substitute Scott (Justin Timberlake) that her dark days begin to brighten a little. And the scheming, conniving, and general despicable-ness get even worse.

Diaz, in all honesty, has never been better. I’m not sure what it says about her, but the foul-mouthed, borderline-lecherous performance that she gives never feels forced. It’s almost as if she’s been wanting to play a role like this for years, and now that she has the chance, she’s not going to hold anything back. She’s brazenly hilarious and perfectly, well… bad.

The real scene-stealer here, though, is Punch. As the prim and proper Ms. Squirrel (yes, that’s her name), she knocks it out of the park. Her performance will go down as one of the funniest of the year, rivaling any of the lovely ladies from Bridesmaids. And keep an eye out for Modern Family‘s Eric Stonestreet who’s great in his brief turn as Kirk, Elizabeth’s wastoid of a roommate.

The screenplay by The Office vets Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky is ridiculously foul but also full of truly funny moments. Yes, it’s occasionally too juvenile, but no more so than anything the Farrellys ever threw at us. And it often benefits from spot-on comedic timing, particularly during scenes between Diaz and Segal.

Kasdan obviously absorbed all he could during his stay in the Apatow camp, and the result is a crazy, hilarious ride down the Potty-mouth Highway. Bad Teacher will delight as many audiences as it will disgust, so you’ve been warned. It’s funny but not the faint of heart.

3.5/5 stars