Expectations can be everything walking into any movie. While some have ad campaigns and an onslaught of TV commercials, teasers, and trailers that lead you to believe their movie is the next cinematic-Ali, others simply have to rely on what gets cast up on the screen. When the film you’re about to see comes from a very hit (TV’s The Office) or miss (Year One) team of writers, Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, all you can do is let the film prove itself. Thankfully, under the hilarious direction of Jake Kasdan (son of Lawrence), Bad Teacher shows us that Bridesmaids aren’t the only ones out to earn our laughs this summer.
While Kasdan may have only produced two prior feature films you’ve actually heard of (Orange County, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story), he’s finally aiming for the silver screen comedy big leagues here. Armed with a raunchy script and a more than game cast it’s no wonder that everything works so well. While Cameron Diaz may be fizzling from the spotlight she’s earned in the past, it’s nice to see her wriggling her way back into the realm of likeability. After her performances in this, Knight and Day, and The Green Hornet, it’s about time she started earning her paychecks again.
Elizabeth Halsey (Diaz) hasn’t always been a Bad Teacher. She may have done whatever she could to keep herself outcast, but it’s not until her fiancée Mark (Nat Faxon) calls off the wedding at his mother’s (Stephanie Faracy) insistence, that she spirals into the foul mouthed, pot smoking, Craigslist rooming, alcoholic, possibly nymphatic teacher that she becomes after returning to John Adams Middle School (or JAMS, as its called throughout the movie). While gym teacher Russell Gettis (Jason Segel) may have the hots for Elizabeth, she sets her sights on substitute teacher Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake) even if he actually develops a crush on Elizabeth’s “across-the-hall-mate” Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch).
Amy and Elizabeth quickly develop a hate/hate relationship because Elizabeth would rather “teach” her students with school-themed feature films ranging from Stand and Deliver to Scream, while Amy thinks that teaching should be utterly “fun-tastic.” While Elizabeth may only yearn to earn $10,000 for breast implants (including embezzling funds from the 7th grade car wash) she seems to be changing her ways after she learns that the teacher whose students earn the highest scores on the state test gets a $5,700 bonus. Now she’s out to prove that she really can earn a paycheck even if she may or may not have drugged Carl Halabi (Thomas Lennon) to get her hands on a copy of the state test after posing as a journalist for the local newspaper.
While the advertising for the film has been as hit and miss as the writer’s careers, personally I’ve always laughed at the TV spots and knew there was a great comedic cast on deck as well as an assured director. I’ve only laughed this hard and this often in one other movie this year (the already mentioned Bridesmaids) and while comedy is of course always subjective, here’s another one that’s a welcome break from the glutton of superheroes, 3-D, and CGI-laden flicks being thrown our way this summer.
It may not have the same amount of heart as Bridesmaids did, but this is a totally different beast. Keep your eye out for some fantastic cameos and while you probably wouldn’t know it, the film works as a Freaks and Geeks reunion of sorts for Kasdan, Segel, and Dave (Gruber) Allen. And of course you also get to hear Timberlake sing, even if the song here is more akin to his collaborations with The Lonely Island than any of his solo offerings, but that’s far more fitting in a film of this ilk. So put your pencils down and your money for Bad Teacher.
Photos courtesy Columbia Pictures