How the hell did Elizabeth Halsey get hired to teach middle school children in the first place? That was the biggest question I had after watching Bad Teacher, in which a sassy Cameron Diaz plays a woman who only teaches to earn a paycheck until she finds a rich guy to marry. Bad Teacher is not a particularly smart movie, and its characters are barely two-dimensional. Streams of profanity and sex jokes are the extent of the film's humor, and those expecting some great revelation for Elizabeth will be disappointed. Nevertheless, Diaz is compulsively watchable, and I found myself laughing more than I care to admit.
Elizabeth leaves her job at John Adams Middle School with her middle finger extended to wed a wealthy man. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, her fiancé and his mother decide it's time to end the engagement. After she trades in her Mercedes, Elizabeth returns to John Adams to reclaim her teaching job. Her lesson plans are non-existent, and the first-day curriculum in Elizabeth's class consists of watching movies while she naps off a hangover. Elizabeth brushes off the advice of fellow teacher Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) and the advances of gym teacher Russell Gettis (Jason Segel), but takes a liking to substitute teacher Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake). Along with being a terrible teacher, Elizabeth steals, smokes pot in the parking lot and insults her students.
Bad Teacher, from director Jake Kasdan (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story), is a fairly stupid movie. Viewers learn next to nothing about Elizabeth other than that she is a terrible person. Her goal in life is to marry rich, and she hopes to accomplish this by getting breast implants, which she cannot afford. Elizabeth learns that the teacher whose students score the highest on the state's standardized test will receive a hefty bonus, and sets out to make this happen by any means necessary. Diaz certainly looks good in the part, and the filmmakers waste no time stripping her down for an unnecessary school carwash. Her interest in the school barely rises above zero, until Ms. Squirrel begins to pursue Mr. Delacorte.
Those looking for especially witty comedy won't find much of it here. Elizabeth swears a lot and does outrageous things, but she's not self-aware. Ms. Squirrel is as good a teacher as Elizabeth is bad, but Elizabeth manipulates her principal (John Michael Higgins) to let her stay on despite allegations that she pocketed funds from the school carwash. There are a few moments when Elizabeth gives age-inappropriate life advice to students. Elizabeth lets a nerdy student have her bra to impress a girl, and she tells one young girl to ignore her parents' advice and become a masseuse if it makes her happy.
Diaz completely carries Bad Teacher, which wastes the talents of Segel, who is barely on screen. Timberlake is pretty funny as the painfully earnest substitute who actually likes his students, but the film's detour into his sexual fetishes quickly hits a dead end. Bad Teacher requires none of your brainpower to enjoy, and you'll forget it soon after it's over. Diaz earns a number of laughs despite the subpar material, and in that respect Bad Teacher is a moderate success.
Sony's 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer for Bad Teacher is very good. The film is quite colorful, and the Blu-ray does a nice job handling these bold colors, which are expertly saturated. Detail and texture are pleasing, and the image's depth is often impressive. Skin tones are natural, and black crush is minimal. There are some intermittent instances of softness, but this is not a large problem for the transfer.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack effectively supports this broad comedy. Dialogue is consistently clear, and mid-range effects are pleasingly rendered. Some effects and ambient noise travel to the rear and surround speakers, and the LFE jumps to life during a couple of choice scenes. The film's soundtrack is deep and effectively mixed. A French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital track and English DVS track are also available, as are English, English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
Bad Teacher arrives on Blu-ray sporting two slightly different cuts of the film: theatrical (1:31:58) and unrated (1:37:38). The disc includes a few lightweight extras in high definition: JAMS Yearbook - Hidden Moments provides silly, text-based blurbs about the main characters, along with a couple of video clips. Next up are a short gag reel (4:58), outtakes (3:53) and deleted scenes (5:44). Way Behind the Scenes with Jason and Justin (5:58) is a mock interview between the "feuding" stars, and Raising More Than Funds (3:31) is a short piece about the ridiculous school carwash. A Very Odd Blacksmith Story (2:08) follows one of the film's writers as he shoots a short cameo, and Swimming with the Dolphins (3:55) discusses Principal Wally Snur's obsession with dolphin figurines. Finally, Good Teacher (4:04) features interview snippets in which the cast discusses what makes an effective teacher. Sony also includes its typical BD-Live access point.
Cameron Diaz is the best thing about Bad Teacher. Diaz's Elizabeth Halsey shows movies instead of teaching, swears a lot and smokes pot in the school parking lot. In order to pay for breast implants, Elizabeth decides to shape up and win the bonus given to the teacher whose students score the highest on a state exam. Bad Teacher is not particularly witty and is pretty forgettable, but the sight of Diaz railroading her hapless students is moderately amusing. Sony's Blu-ray is technically solid, but I'm not sure how much replay value this one has. Rent It.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.