Bad Teacher

27 06 2011

It’s hard to root for the main character in Bad Teacher. Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) is not only a bad teacher, she’s a bad person.

Elizabeth is searching desperately for the easy way through life. She seeks out rich boyfriends, smokes weed, and free-loads off of everybody. After her rich fiancé dumps her, however, she needs a legitimate job to support herself.

She turns to an old job – teaching. Unfortunately, she isn’t very good at it. For the first month, Elizabeth shows movies like ‘Scream’ to her class. Meanwhile, she mistreats her honest, hardworking coworkers and spends most of her day drinking and smoking weed.


The first half of the movie focuses solely on Elizabeth’s bad behavior. Instead of being funny, most of her actions make you want to punch her in the face. It’s hard to feel sympathy for a vindictive, selfish woman who calls up her ex-boyfriend to demand he give her “only ten grand!”

Fortunately, the latter half of Bad Teacher is much better than the first. The focus shifts to more interesting characters, like Russell (Jason Segel) and Scott (Justin Timberlake). Russell is similar to Elizabeth, but more likeable: he’s just as lazy, but doesn’t expect to be rewarded for it.

Meanwhile, Scott is entertaining in a bizarre way. While Elizabeth is initially attracted to his money (his family has made a fortune in the watch-making business), she quickly finds out how weird he is. He writes crappy songs, in which he rhymes real words, like ‘simpatico’ with fake words, like ‘a lot-ico’.

Scott is also dating Ms. Squirrel – one of the keenest teachers at the school. Ms. Squirrel despises Elizabeth. While she works hard to give her students a valuable learning experience, Elizabeth is accepting bribes from parents for better grades. Their conflict is inevitable, and entertaining to watch.


The jokes may be crude and politically incorrect, but most of them are funny. That being said, in the first half of the movie, some of the humour fell flat – it just felt wrong to laugh at the spiteful actions of such a horrible human being. For example, I don’t get what is funny about Elizabeth ungraciously accepting the home-baked cookies of her student, only to spit them out in disgust. She didn’t even say ‘thank you’!

Bad Teacher never quite achieves its full potential. It’s difficult to like Elizabeth, since much of the comedy comes at the expense of her diligent co-workers. Thankfully, a strong supporting cast and a satisfying conclusion saves the film from being a total disappointment. Bad Teacher gets a passing grade, but the real bad teacher, Elizabeth, gets an ‘F’ as a human being.