BAD TEACHER Review

Cameron Diaz channels her inner Billy Bob Thorton in "Bad Teacher" and delivers her version of the world's worst educator. In all honesty this is a movie that could have been just as horrible as its main character. Sure, there is plenty of talent here, Diaz herself headlines and is best known for being the pretty girl who isn't afraid to "go there" or make herself look like a fool in front of the camera. It's what made her famous in the first place. We also have the ever expanding appeal of Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel is always golden, and the only inspiring moment of last years comedy dud "Dinner for Schmucks," Lucy Punch gives another great showing here as well. Whether it is due to the buffet of talent or my low expectations for this low brow premise, this film is overall much better and more consistently funny than it ever should have been.

While "Bad Teacher" is ultimately a showcase for Diaz to show she still has what made her a movie star in the first place the movie is able to get past its recycled feeling and instead turns into a pretty enjoyable politically incorrect comedy. As Elizabeth Halsey, Diaz is a gold digger who is discovered by her well off dork of a husband and then divorced thus forcing her to return to public school where she shows inspirational "teacher movies" during class so she can sleep, drink, and do drugs. Halsey is an almost disgusting character who would certainly be fired in an instant were this based in any kind of reality, but in movieland we are of course made to root for this unsympathetic, seriously bad teacher. In a somewhat refreshing turn, our central character never really learns to gain anything from her students but instead embraces her own missteps and applies them to getting these students ready for the world as she sees it.

It may be really going against the grain to say that "Bad Teacher" is a worthwhile film to spend money on and to waste an hour and a half on, but the truth is that the movie delivers what it advertised itself to be. Nothing more, nothing less. Director Jake Kasdan has made a career out of delivering awkward comedies that center around characters who don't want to adapt to the conventions of their natural surroundings. Whether it be Colin Hanks jaded high school student in "Orange County" or John C. Reilly's small town boy who yearns to make it big in "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story". Kasdan follows Diaz's Halsey just as loyally. It is with his unflinching faith to his main protagonist or antagonist (whichever way you choose to view her) that allows "Bad Teacher" not to slip into conventions itself. The movie finishes just as awkwardly as it begins. The story lines with Timberlake and Segel never become that of a romantic comedy. They are kept true to their origins and it is with unabashed performances from both actors that we enjoy a trip that is as superficial and as organic as any movie could perpetrate.

That may again sound like giant praise for a sophomoric summer comedy, but you have to take into account all things here and the fact is that Timberlake builds a real character here, granted it is a fairly mild one, it is still good to see him try rather than scoot by on his name and his reputation. Segel delivers where it need be and adds a sense of comedy credibility that might have been lacking had this purely been a Cameron Diaz vehicle. As for the real reason this movie works and has a complete feel to it is the performance as Ms. Squirrel from Punch who completely anchors the film that would have otherwise been toppled by the dirty performance of Diaz's teacher. This isn't the best comedy you'll see this year, it's probably not even going to be the best comedy of the summer, but it's not a bad one and its much better than it had to be.