A box office blessing while being critically commonplace, Columbia Pictures’ Bad Teacher was recently released on DVD and Blu-ray. The Jake Kasdan (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story) picture, starring Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake, follows foul-mouthed, gold-digging middle school teacher Elizabeth Halsey (Diaz) in her quest to raise funds for a boob job in hopes of landing a wealthy suitor. That’s about as deep as the film’s plot gets as half-hearted attempts at character development suffer from poor editing and disjointed pacing. Collider’s Matt Goldberg has praised the film’s humor while our Bill Graham pointed out its flaws in his review. Hit the jump to see where I stand and for a look at what you can expect on the DVD.
Before I get into my review, here’s a basic summary of the plot of Bad Teacher: Unrated Edition. [Spoilers] When the film opens, the teachers of John Adams Middle School (JAMS) are celebrating the end of another school year and bidding farewell to Elizabeth Halsey. After Halsey is dumped by her wealthy fiancé due to her gold-digging ways, she finds herself back at JAMS the following year. There, she meets eligible bachelor/substitute teacher Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), resulting in Halsey’s misguided plan to save money for a boob job in order to win his affections.
The next hour highlights Halsey’s unique teaching abilities (showing movies in class, swearing at kids and teachers alike, smoking pot in the car, etc), her conflict with fellow teacher Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) over Delacorte and her continued rejections of gym teacher Russell Gettis’ (Jason Segel) advances. Instead of teaching the kids, Halsey focuses on raising money through an R-rated carwash, taking money from parents in exchange for better grades on report cards and giving her class the answers to a state test in order to earn a substantial performance bonus.
The third act attempts to redeem Halsey’s character through her honest and somewhat-supportive role with one of her students who struggles with relationships. Although she wins Delacorte from Miss Squirrel, Halsey tends toward the more “simpatico” Gettis in the end. The movie closes with a physically un-altered Halsey returning to JAMS in an equally unbelievable position as the school’s guidance counselor.
As far as R-rated comedies go, I like raunchy, foul, “I can’t believe they got away with that” humor as much as the next guy. Having said that, using the plot of “rotten individual in a wholesome setting eventually learns humility” only works if you can take the protagonist’s arc from one extreme to another (Bad Santa comes to mind). On the other hand, comedies by committee, such as The Hangover and Bridesmaids, allow individual actors to shine while sustaining a good pace and keeping a fresh screen presence. Bad Teacher falls short of the number of laughs the above-mentioned films provided for two reasons: the supporting cast had the funniest moments, but came too few and far between and the transformation of Diaz’s character from beginning to end was unsatisfying.
That’s not to say the movie was devoid of laughs. There are some great moments scattered throughout, whether they be the hyperactive mannerisms of Halsey’s competition Amy Squirrel, the mumbling self-doubt of fellow teacher Lynn Davies (Phyllis Smith), the comedic sensibilities of Principal Wally Snur (John Michael Higgins) or the zany cameo by Thomas Lennon as Carl Halabi, from whom Halsey weasels the state exam answer key. Segel nails every scene through expert sarcasm and timing, although his character is very low key. Timberlake’s character, on the other hand, lacked the writing or personality to hit his beats.
The adult cast in the R-rated Bad Teacher provided a lot of the laughs, but so did the kids. In my opinion, the chance to juxtapose the innocence of the kids against the abrasiveness of Halsey was underused. In tamer movies such as School of Rock or Billy Madison, the kids’ performances shined right up there with the stars. Bad Teacher again has its moments: Igal Ben Yair played Arkady, a foreign student with a hilarious lack of understanding for acceptable social customs; Daniel Castro as Rodrigo, an acne-prone kid nicknamed “Boner Patrol” and Matthew J. Evans as Garrett Tiara, one of Halsey’s students whom she offers advice regarding a crush he has on one of his classmates. While I feel like writers Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg wanted to build on this relationship based on some of the plot and a deleted scenes, it came across as an afterthought.
Bad Teacher is a middle-of-the-road comedy with a good premise but poor execution. There are laughs to be found but most of them are forced or due only to shock value. I think actual teachers might find this movie more to their liking, as Halsey does a lot of things teachers probably wish they could get away with. In my opinion, Bad Teacher is best relegated to the ranks of rentals, as there is nothing worth watching a second time through.
- Easily the funniest part of the DVD, the outtakes show some fantastic ad lib scenes and side takes. Check out a portion of the gag reel here.
- A selection of four scenes cut from the film, one of which highlights a moment from the relationship between Halsey and her student.
- “Dr. Vogel Discusses Breast Enhancement,” “Robot Picnic,” “Boner Patrol” and “Scott Reads Tom Sawyer to Class”
Way Behind the Scenes with Jason and Justin:
- A comedic short between Jason Segel and Justin Timberlake with a number of “takes” portraying different relationships between the actors that vary from friendly to contentious to just plain awkward.
Raising More than Funds:
- The special features get in on the boner jokes with this behind-the-scenes look at the filming of Cameron Diaz’s car wash scene, featuring additional footage.
- Bad Teacher: Unrated Edition contains 5 extra minutes of “raunchy footage” not seen in the theatrical version, although the DVD has both versions available to play with runtimes of 92 and 97 minutes respectively.