How bad is bad enough? When we watch our depraved protagonist how close do we want them to walk the line? Billy Bob Thorton achieved a cult performance as a horrendous Santa Claus, Danny McBride is mesmerizing as the biggest jerk in baseball, and Eric Cartman may be the worst of them all while only being in the 4th grade.
Cameron Diaz is trying to join their ranks as a “bad teacher.” She throws dodgeballs in the faces of her students, shows up to class hungover, and her only dream to get bigger breasts so she can snag a rich guy. She lies, cheats, and steals but never really pushes the envelope.
There are no serious repercussions for her actions or moments when the audience is truly disgusted by rooting for her. She remains a safe rapscallion much like Captain Jack Sparrow. Such a thing could be a problem if there wasn’t a consistent stream of jokes.
The film was penned by two of the writers of “The Office” and the men behind the horrid “Year One.” They work well in creating a series of quests for Diaz to get the $10,000 she needs for her boob job. Talented comedic actors like Justin Timberlake and Jason Segal provide a lot of entertainment as the possible men for her affection.
The film works best when the characters are just goofing off. The one-liners get the biggest laughs not because they’re “shocking” but due to them being funny and well timed.. When the movie delves down the predictable path of her inspiring the children or flirting with Segal—who is one of those actors who has great rapport with everyone—the momentum does not stop cold because it keeps the laughs going. They are there to make her more sympathetic and less of a “bad teacher” but they allow her to still be bad during the scenes.
The most entertaining aspect of the movie is the unexpected rivalry between Diaz and the persnickety chipper teacher played by Lucy Punch. Their pranks keep escalating in a rather demented fashion considering how little is at stake for them. They are both sorta fighting for Timberlake’s affection, but he’s too clueless to really understand what’s going. They keep at it because they hate each other.
Director Jake Kasdan (“The TV Set” “Walk Hard”) does a good job about keeping the teacher/student parallels from being too ridiculous. Instead he just lets them have crushes, misbehave, be sent to the principal’s office, and sneak off to do drugs like the amusingly adolescents the educators are. They aren’t the funniest group of people or the most risqué, but they remain entertaining and don’t over stay their welcome.