Cameron Diaz portrays what might be the least likable protagonist in movie history in today’s movie, Bad Teacher. Her character, Elizabeth Halsey, is a pot-smoking gold-digger who’s primary ambition is to scam her way to the $10,000 she needs to pay for a boob job, so that she can win the favor of Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), a dorky substitute teacher who happens to scion of a wealthy family.
Diaz deserves credit for holding nothing back and really committing to the performance as this low-life. Halsey is, I think, supposed to be something of an ironic anti-hero along the lines of Billy Bob Thornton’s Willie Stokes in Bad Santa. Unfortunately Halsey doesn’t have the needed note of charm or underlying goodness to make her character redeemable. Sure, there’s an attempt to redeem the character by having her take an interest and helping one of her students, but this comes way to late, and doesn’t stop Halsey from continuing to utterly destroy the life of fellow teacher Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch), who’s only offenses were to date Delacorte and to try to expose Halsey’s outright criminal behavior.
This destruction of a dedicated and generally decent teacher is the movie’s “big win”… because this movie is awful.
The film isn’t entirely without merit. Jason Segal is great as gym teacher Russell Gettis. He’s basically the only likeable character in the entire movie, and he’s also responsible for most of the funnier moments. Timberlake also seems to relish playing against type as the nerdy oddball Delacorte.
One or two supporting performances aren’t nearly enough to redeem this movie though. I suppose the filmmakers deserve some credit by trying to turn the tables and make a movie where the “likable scumbag” is a woman. Unfortunately, they seem to have forgotten the key step of actually making her likable. There is some potential in the premise, (enough I’d be willing to check out the upcoming TV series adaptation,) but this film doesn’t make anything good from it. Bad Teacher is a movie that you should Avoid Seeing.