Here’s a riddle for you: What do you call a shitty film peppered with a profanity every 62 seconds featuring the insanely hot body of Cameron Diaz? You call it a shitty movie, dumbass. Don’t be so dim, because you’re playing right into the hands of Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, the screenwriters of Bad Teacher and the massive brain trust behind the script for Jack Black’s Year One. You can almost tell exactly what happened with their screenplay for Bad Teacher, too. It was a terrible, unfunny overly-broad comedy script, and after it was rejected by half a dozen studios, someone got the bright idea to add curse words. It’s still a juvenile script, only now it has adult words, essentially a lazy Adam Sandler movie with cusses.
The only thing saving Bad Teacher from another comedic experience as execrable as Year One is the winsome performance of a stoner gym teacher played by Jason Segel, the modest but diminishing directing skills of Jake Kasdan (whose movies have gotten progressively worse since Zero Effect) and Cameron Diaz’s ability to rock a pair of heels. We were promised so much more than this in the trailer. Sadly, Bad Teacher is the rare instance where not only were all the funny moments in the trailer but those “funny” moments weren’t actually funny in the film. The trailer editors had better comedic timing than Kasdan, who doesn’t meet a scene in Bad Teacher that he can’t flatten. There are about nine decent minutes in Bad Teacher, and they all involved either Jason Segel or an almost funny sex scene between Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake that might’ve worked in another, far better film that had some built some comedic momentum up to it.
After her fiance dumps her, Elizabeth (Diaz) returns to school intent only on finding a man to support her so she can quit. She looks past the lackadaisical gym teacher (Segel) who is perfect for her, and right at the new teacher, Scott Delacorte, a dorky male-virgin caricature who comes from family money (Timberlake). Delacorte, however, has more in common with Ms. Squirrel (Lucy Punch), who shares Delacorte’s fondness for Eat, Pray, Love. (Actually exchange: “Which is your favorite part?” // “Love, of course.” // “Me too!”) Elizabeth thinks it’s because Ms. Squirrel has bigger tits, so the majority of the film is focused on Elizabeth’s efforts to raise money for a boob job by shuffling through the list of classically unfunny situations suggested by Clippy’s cousin, Inky, the bizzare animated mascot of Microsoft’s Script-Writing Software.
In between, there’s a few failed nods into the general direction of comedy: Elizabeth smokes “medical” marijuana in her car, sleeps at her desk, and crashes one of her student’s family Christmas dinners for the free food. But nothing works in Bad Teacher, which wants to be Bad Santa but lacks better writing, better directing, and a likable anti-hero, an asshole for whom the audience actually wants to root. Diaz doesn’t bring much to the role besides a sweet pair of legs, but she’s not given much with which to work. Timberlake and Lucy Punch actually nail their characters; the problem is, their characters aren’t funny as written. Only Segel — channeling his character from Knocked Up — escapes unscathed, but it has less to do with the script and the direction and more to do with Segel’s naturally amiable charm.
The idea of a hot-bodied teacher with a trucker mouth and a shitty attitude hits a lot of notes in the scale of adolescent male fantasy. This movie should’ve been an easy sell, and I was as eager as anyone to give in to it. Unfortunately, Stupnitsky and Eisenberg still haven’t realized that it takes more than a studio pitch and a few naughty words to make a funny movie; you have to work those situations, build those characters, and, most importantly, give us something more inspired than the Butter Face jokes that will undoubtedly dominate the comment thread of this review (ha ha, that’s hilarious, unoriginal jackass who skimmed past the last paragraph of this review).