AWFJ Women On Film – “Bad Teacher” – Susan Granger reviews

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“Bad Santa” was funny. “Bad Lieutenant” was fierce. But “Bad Teacher” is just offensive.

At John Adams Middle School in suburban Illinois, lazy, foul-mouthed Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) is a frustrated seventh-grade teacher whose rich fiancé dumps her when he realizes she’s just after his money. So she sets her sights on a new substitute teacher, Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), whose family got wealthy making watches. Problem is: geeky Scott goes for big-breasted women. So svelte Elizabeth is determined to get $10,000 for surgical implants, a decision that leads her to steal proceeds from a class car wash, solicit tutoring bribes from unsuspecting parents, and seduce a state official (Thomas Lennon) to get a copy of a standardized test so that she can earn a cash bonus. In addition, she blatantly drinks booze in the classroom and smokes pot in the parking lot.

Her irresponsible antics infuriate a righteous, ultra-perky, rival teacher, Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch), who squeals on her to the principal (John Michael Higgins). Then there’s the sarcastic gym teacher, Russell Gettis (Jason Segal), who’s smitten with gold-digging Elizabeth, who spurns him until the final reel when the schlub gets the slut – in what passes for a happy ending.

Written by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky and directed by Jake Kasdan (“Walk Hard; The Dewey Cox Story”), it’s crude, sloppily unstructured and totally devoid of charm or comedy. Selfish, self-absorbed Elizabeth fosters derision and dislike. She’s caustic, cynically ruthless and casually racist. She verbally humiliates her students and one scene, in which she sadistically throws a ball at a boy’s unprotected groin, urging classmates to hold his arms behind his back, is tantamount to criminal child abuse.

Don’t sell Cameron Diaz short. Her resume includes “Being John Malkovich” and “Gangs of New York,” along with “Shrek” and “There’s Something About Mary.” But in skimpy Daisy Dukes in a rub-a-dub car-wash scene, she’s a crass, aging Jessica Simpson imitator.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Bad Teacher” fails with a foul 3 – and it’s not even funny.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.