Starring: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel
Director: Jake Kasden
Recently, there has been a spate of major movies which have failed to completely explain the premise of said movie through their titles. Films like The Green Lantern, for example; for someone unaware of the comic book series, The Green Lantern could be about literally anything, from an eerie horror story to product recall information from B&Q. Thankfully, Columbia have decided enough is enough, and brought us the imaginatively named Bad Teacher.
In Bad Teacher, Cameron Diaz plays Elizabeth Halsey, a (wait for it) bad teacher who finds herself embroiled in an extremely convoluted plot. Her rich fiancé leaves her, forcing her to remain a teacher (and a ‘bad’ one at that). She sets herself the goal of finding another rich man who will ‘take care’ of her, and this goal is quickly achieved upon the arrival of substitute teacher Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake). However, she becomes convinced that her repeated failures to snare Scott and thus the future of her dreams are due to her lack of cleavage, therefore meaning she must raise as much money as she can to fund cosmetic surgery.
Often with films which deal initially unlikeable protagonists, they can become bogged down in a moral quagmire, as the hero undergoes a life-changing transformation over the movie’s duration to reach the end a more endearing, well-rounded, happy human being. Writers Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg generously and thoughtfully avoid the moral high road and make next to no effort at character development whatsoever. Throughout, Elizabeth remains crude, vacuous, superficial, and one whose complete disregard for actually teaching her class goes inexplicably unnoticed and unpunished.
Rather than showing the audience the error of Elizabeth’s ways, Bad Teacher sets out a rather different set of moral guidelines; moral guidelines such as ‘drugging people is fine, as long as you can cover yourself by blackmailing them’ and ‘remember to cause as much harm to others as possible, especially if it advances you towards what you want’. It also takes a fairly dim view of teaching as a profession, showing the five main teachers as being idiotic, spineless, uncaring liars (especially if they try and appear anything other than the scum of the earth than they so obviously are). Elizabeth questions with a co-worker, ‘what went wrong in your life to make you a teacher’, and this is the message of the entire film.