Thirteen years ago when she innocently reached out for that ‘hair gel’ hanging off Ben Stiller’s ear in There’s Something About Mary, Cameron Diaz was anointed the funniest girl in the movies. After all, she could make the crudest jokes appear cute and harmless. Who better then to cast as a smoking, drinking, potty-mouthed academician in a comedy whose title tells you everything you need to know about the film?
Diaz, who’s now pushing 40 but still flaunts a body of a 20-something-year-old, stars in Bad Teacher as a woman who hates kids and the very idea of teaching, and is relieved to finally dump her job at a middle school when she is engaged to a rich guy she intends to live off for the rest of her life. When those plans go horribly wrong, she’s forced to go back to her teaching job, but she sets her sights on a millionaire substitute teacher (played by Justin Timberlake) whom she hopes to entice with a breast-enlargement surgery. To fund the new boobs, she demands cash from parents in exchange for private tuitions, steals from the school’s charity car wash where she parades about in her skimpiest clothes, and even seduces a state official so she can steal the answers to an exam and win a cash prize for Best Teacher.
As Diaz shamelessly goes about her mission to gather the money, she locks horns with a rival teacher (played by the excellent Lucy Punch) who is determined to take her down. Meanwhile, she’s also pursued by the schlubby gym teacher (played by Jason Segal) who sees her for the opportunist she is, but likes her anyway. Her best scenes in fact are with Segal and particularly the kids, whom she insults and puts down repeatedly, until she surprisingly takes pity on one nerdish youngster.
Bad Teacher deserves an ‘A’ for its concept, but unfortunately the film isn’t outrageous enough to shock you in the manner that a film like this should. Cameron Diaz sportingly goes along with the film’s raunchiest gags, including a simulated sex scene with Justin Timberlake; yet nothing in this film is as unpredictably naughty as that ‘hair gel’ scene in her breakout film.
Despite its shortcomings, however, this movie has a decent share of laugh-out-loud moments, and Diaz infuses her character with enough spunk to occasionally take your mind off this disappointing script. I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Bad Teacher. Don’t expect to fall off your seat laughing, but it’s funny enough to justify the price of a ticket.