Thanks to the likes of Ed Rooney, Dolores Umbridge, Mr. McAllister and many other epically awful instructors, the national education system has made going to the movies an outright blast over the years. Now joining their ranks is one Elizabeth Halsey in 'Bad Teacher,' whose classroom offenses give her profession nearly as bad a rap as 'Waiting for Superman' did. Smokin' doobies, beating on kids, taking bribes from parents -- you name it, she's done it. But as good as that all sounds from the outset, does it finally make corporal punishment funny?
Well, go ahead and hit the jump to find out.
What's It About?
'Bad Teacher' is about a superficial, self-centered, generally miserable woman named Elizabeth Halsey who gets dumped by her rich fiance for those very reasons after finishing her first year "teaching" seventh-graders. Without a fall-back plan and barely any cash to support herself, she reluctantly returns to her teaching gig and once again actively strives to suck at her job by showing movies to her students on a daily basis while she throws back nips of booze behind her desk. Then one day a studly, wealthy substitute teacher starts roaming the halls, and since he's only got eyes for the goody two-shoes who keeps getting in Ms. Halsey's way, our girl decides that the best way to win his affection is to get herself some breast implants. Being that she can't afford them, she ups her game and takes it upon herself to cheat, lie and skank her way to the top in the hopes of nabbing the big fat bonus check that comes with being the Best Teacher of the Year.
Is It at All Like 'Bad Santa'?
Well, they've both got the same first word in their titles and the premise is somewhat similar in terms of taking someone who's usually presented in a positive light and instead depicting them as the worst person on Earth, but that's about it. And that's a damn shame, considering that 'Bad Santa' was one of the best comedies of the past decade and we wouldn't hesitate to sing the praises of any movie that would make us laugh as hard as that did. Unfortunately, we're hesitating pretty hard with this one even if it does have a few bright moments.
When it comes to the stuff that works, the one thing we keep coming back to is Jason Segel's role as the school gym teacher. He doesn't get a whole lot of screen time but makes better use of it than anyone else in the cast. If you've seen anything he's been a part of since 'Freaks and Geeks,' chances are you're on the level that Segel is as freakin' hilarious as he is insanely likable. In short, he's the only one here who really knows how to deliver his lines, and at times it felt like he was reading from a different script entirely. However, the double-edged sword of Segel being so solid is that he unintentionally makes his peers seem ... meh.
She's never struck us as one of the funniest women in Hollywood since her days as Mary, but Cameron Diaz gets it done as Ms. Halsey. We wouldn't call hers a poor casting choice, as she definitely gets into the role, but she doesn't quite hold her own as a comedic driving force. Phyllis Smith ('The Office') is fine as one of the other teachers, Lucy Punch is decent as Ms. Halsey's goody-two-shoes competition, and John Michael Higgins has his moments as the school principal. While we generally like Justin Timberlake, he doesn't bring all that much to the table here and we can't shake this nagging feeling that his turn as the substitute teacher could have been written out entirely. Yeah, he's the reason Ms. Halsey wants to get implants in the first place and he also makes up one-third of the movie's lust triangle, but that's seriously all the guy adds to the movie and it ain't a whole lot.
And as for the script, it's fairly predictable, it's not all that quotable, and you can get the whole gist of what's gonna down from the trailer. On top of that, it could have been way more outrageous and politically incorrect. Since this thing was already gunning for an R-rating, it's kind of disappointing to see it hold back so much in the "That ain't right" department. Strange how the funniest scene of the movie ended up being a non-fight of sorts between Ms. Halsey's weird roommate played by Eric Stonestreet from 'Modern Family' and a state testing official played by Thomas Lennon from 'Reno 911,' especially since it lasts all of two minutes and has hardly anything to do with the main story line.
It's hard to say whether it was the casting or the writing that steered this movie wrong, but whatever it was, something didn't turn out right. At least it had a good idea to work with, and it does get a bit of mileage out of that once in a while.
Is It Worth Seeing?
If you're looking to laugh, you'd be a lot better off checking out 'Conan O'Brien Can't Stop' instead. But if that's not playing, we guess you could do worse. It's not that 'Bad Teacher' is unfunny or anything -- it does have some chuckles -- there are just way too many punch lines that fall flat on their faces and not enough of Jason Segel's effortless hilarity to balance out everything else that's trying too hard. 'Bad Teacher' had the potential for greatness but ended up being pretty forgettable.
5/10 Rubber Rooms