Anti-Glee comedy delivers low-brow laughs

Cameron Diaz stars in Bad Teacher

 

Although far from ideal, Bad Teacher clearly has a good idea of what makes low-brow comedies work. There is also a core of talented performers to sell its scuzzy message that being nice basically sucks. In short, this anti-Glee portrait of junior high school life avoids the dunce cap but fails to make the honour roll.

A revved-up Cameron Diaz stars as Elizabeth Halsey in the eponymous role of an amoral, lazy-to-the-bone teacher who has only been treading water in her job until her scheme of marrying a rich guy and spending his loot comes to fruition. But then her fiancé realizes she’s just a gold-digger and dumps her flat. Suddenly out in the cold, she returns to her school job the next year with an even worse attitude than before. Rather than teach English literature she shows Hollywood movies about inspirational teachers to her students — in between either ignoring or abusing them or simply sleeping off the hangover from last night’s booze-up.

Her life suddenly comes back into focus when a new teacher shows up in school. Although the nerdy Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake) dresses in bad plaid and is an emotionally wet puppy recovering from a nasty breakup, he is also the heir to a fortune. This is all the encouragement Elizabeth needs and she sets about recalibrating her man-seeking missiles — quite literally, in this case, as she is desperate to get breast implants.

Unfortunately, the surgery is going to cost $10,000 that she doesn’t have. And thus the plot begins to chug happily along as Elizabeth launches a series of get-rich schemes.

As Elizabeth pursues her goals with memorably trampy panache, she arouses first the suspicions and then the enmity of an “inspirational” teacher across the hall. Perky when she isn’t being sucky, Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch, Dinner For Schmucks) keeps trying unsuccessfully to rat Elizabeth out to the school’s principal, a doofus whose only passion in life is dolphins. Soon, Elizabeth and Amy are fighting for Scott’s affections. And then, when cash-strapped Elizabeth hears that there is a $5,000 award for the teacher whose students bring in the best test scores in the state — an achievement very close to Amy’s heart — the rivalry between the two goes from spiteful to very nasty indeed.

Teacher is more than funny enough to get a passing grade. Diaz, a star who isn’t really an actress, has more than enough awareness of her persona to inhabit the character of Elizabeth with an abundance of wickedly self-serving glee. (And to the script’s credit, Elizabeth goes through a bit of a character arc while hardly wavering in her commitment to being shamelessly self-absorbed.) Timberlake and Punch bring lots of shading to their characters, while several of the supporting actors also do fine work. Funny without being too needlessly vulgar, this movie will be a fine conclusion to a day spent baking your brains at the beach. M

 

bad teacher  ★★¾

Continues at the Odeon & SilverCity

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Michael Demers, performing here as a member of The Lonely, died May 1 after a year-long battle with leukemia. (Photo by Benji Duke)
Victoria music community mourning Michael Demers

Veteran singer-songwriter, co-founder of The Lonely dies at 63 due to leukemia

The Royal B.C. Museum has added a tamba dining set, used by a Punjabi man on his voyage to Canada in 1927, to its ‘100 Objects of Interest’ online collection. (Courtesy of Royal B.C. Museum)
Punjabi dining set added to Royal B.C. Museum’s ‘100 Objects of Interest’ collection

Set used by Indar Singh Gill on his voyage from Punjab to Canada in 1927

Victoria-born musician Bryce Dane Soderberg took to Instagram Monday to call out the Greater Victoria School District on its proposed cuts to elementary and middle school music programs. (Bryce Dane Soderberg/Instagram)
Victoria-born Lifehouse vocalist calls out SD61 on proposed music cuts

‘It will be a big loss to future generations’ Bryce Dane Soderberg posted to his Instagram

Musqueam and Qualicum First Nations artist, Mathew Andreatta, next to several of his ongoing projects, including carvings and illustrations. (Submitted photo)
Island artist considers art a means to reconnect with his Indigenous identity

Andreatta thought of TOSH as a space of learning and creation

Nicolle Nattrass and Michael Armstrong are presenting an online reading on May 9. (Photos courtesy Joni Marcolin/Heather Armstrong)
Nanaimo playwrights present online Mother’s Day script readings

Nicolle Nattrass and Michael Armstrong to read from in-progress plays

Marianne Turley is one of this year’s City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award winners for Honour in Culture. (Bulletin file photo)
Longtime Vancouver Island Symphony board member gets posthumous culture award

Marianne Turley receives City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award for Honour in Culture

The CVAC Fine Arts Show is always something to see and 2021 promises to be no different, as they adopt a fully multimedia approach. (File photo)
Cowichan Valley Fine Arts Show goes multimedia for 2021

The show, which runs from May 1-22 will be available both in person and online.

Dinner After a Death, a painting by Sooke artist Bryan Cathcart is part of a collection featuring his work at the Outsiders and Others Gallery in Vancouver. (Contributed - Bryan Cathcart)
Sooke artist finds creativity by expanding artistic horizons

Bryan Cathcart, 26, featured at Vancouver gallery

Viking-inspired fantasy writer Joshua Gillingham of Nanaimo and Seattle-based Islamic science fiction editor Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad are co-editing ‘Althingi – The Crescent and the Northern Star.’ (Photos submitted, illustration by Lada Shustova/Figue)
Nanaimo author co-editing historical anthology connecting Vikings and Muslims

Joshua Gilligham presents ‘Althingi – The Crescent and the Northern Star’

Saltair-based writer, Krista May. (Janet Kelly photo)
Island writers make long-list for 2021 CBC Short Story Prize

Krista May and Angie Ellis among 33 finalists selected out of over 3,000 entrants

A writer studying in England drew from her roots growing up in Sooke for a story that’s been short-listed for a prestigious international prize.
Former Sooke resident up for prestigious writing award

Cara Marks earns nomination for the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Most Read