Cameron Diaz moved from modeling to acting, starring opposite Jim Carrey in The Mask, followed by her role in the Farrelly brothers jaw-dropping There’s Something About Mary, flickering between comedy and romance in the 2000s – ever the sweet and fun-loving angel. Now she’s decided to flirt with danger, doing a complete 180 degree turn on her Hollywood persona to deliver something edgier, nastier and unexpected.
Just like Jennifer Aniston’s role as a dentist, sexual deviant and evil temptress in Horrible Bosses, Cameron Diaz has transformed herself into a cold gold digger and trophy wife wannabe in the title role of Bad Teacher, a film by Jake Kasdan, director Orange County and Walk Hard. Take the fun substitute teacher story of School of Rock and throw in some dark school politics from World’s Greatest Dad and you’ve got a match… just not as good.
After a nasty break up with her fiance or in this case, financier, Elizabeth Halsey (Diaz) is forced to return to her ordinary day job as a teacher at a local school, while she licks her wounds and begins the prowl for a new sugar daddy. Her apathetic outlook and hedonistic ways soon catch up with her and it’s not long before she’s pitted against a “good” teacher.
This is an uncharacteristic role for Cameron Diaz, who usually goes for sillier, sweeter co-lead or supporting characters. She’s supported by Lucy Punch, her goodie-two-shoes and nemesis with Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Justin Timberlake (Friends with Benefits), two prospective victims for the man-eater, with chewier character actor comics, John Michael Higgins and Thomas Lennon on the side.
Just like Role Models, it’s one of those coarse, difficult-to-place niche comedies that is too offensive for general audiences, yet not prickly or deep enough for art house. Bad Teacher holds a good comedy cast with decent comic performances, but the overall tone is a little nasty and the script relies on the main character’s clash of personality and ill will for laughs.
These nasty smirks begin to fade with the character’s transition, something that was inevitable and necessary for the drama to sustain its credibility. Cameron Diaz is naturally charming and manages to coax us into believing in her character, yet there’s no sliver of likability or depth of character – making it difficult to truly engage from the get-go.
The second half of the film commits to the cat-and-mouse game between Halsey (Diaz) and Ms. Squirrel (Punch), the would-be challenger in a fight for popularity with the spoils being the nerdy and eligible young bachelor, Scott Delacorte (Timberlake). It’s a Roadrunner type battle of “one-up-man-ship” as each teacher stoops lower to outdo the other.
The old school soundtrack gives the film spunk. The first-rate cast ratchet up the ensemble’s collective comedy weight and the premise is fun with a sexually-charged air of danger and expectancy. The movie is entertaining enough as it stands, but it’s missing an extra level… that little something that simultaneously distinguishes it, adds depth and a sparkle in the eye.
There’s something missing in Bad Teacher. It’s as if the actors haven’t fully committed to the idea or the production. Bad Teacher wants to be bad, sweet and funny all at the same time and this dilutes the overall effect. Cedar Rapids set the right sort of tone for this style of comedy and Bad Teacher just lacks a bit of chemistry – the sort of good vibes you just can’t fake. Unfortunately, it’s one of those hit-and-miss movies that has a few laughs and great ingredients, but just doesn’t quite add up.
The bottom line: Shallow.
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