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Thursday, June 30, 2011 08:54 am

Diaz goes to the head of the class in Bad Teacher

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Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher.
What did I learn from Bad Teacher? I was reminded that you can’t judge a book by its cover, that a strong supporting cast is invaluable when tackling an edgy script and that Cameron Diaz still has enough screen presence to make us overlook a film’s faults. To be sure, this isn’t a movie that will be mentioned in any of the cast members’ obituaries but it winds up being a more than passable entertainment that provides some solid laughs.

Diaz effectively plays against type as Elizabeth Halsey, a gold digger who has one year of middle school teaching under her belt and is ready to leave the world of lesson plans and homework behind to marry her sugardaddy. Only problem is, her fiancé gets wise, cuts her loose and before you know it, she’s got a roommate (Eric Stonestreet) from craigslist and is back to shaping young minds. Her stash of weed and booze helps her through the day, which consists of hitting “PLAY” on her DVD player. However, a ray of hope arrives in the person of permanent substitute Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), who happens to be the heir to a huge fortune. Halsey starts to zero in on her latest meal ticket but her co-worker, the overly peppy Ms. Squirrel (Lucy Punch), has him in her sights as well, a situation that comes to a head at, of all places, the Lincoln sites in Springfield and New Salem, the location of the annual seventh grade field trip.

Director Jake Kasden’s brisk take on Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg’s (The Office) witty script is the proper approach as it allows the film to quickly move from one effective bit to another. The cast does a fine job getting into the spirit of the movie’s crude humor, particularly Timberlake, who proves once and for all here that he’s not afraid to make himself look foolish, Punch, who effectively mixes optimism with psychosis and Jason Segel as the school’s gym teacher who has designs on Halsey. But this is Diaz’s show and she has great fun sullying her image, intent on living up to the film’s title. She more than succeeds and proves she’s capable of being the comedic head of the class.  

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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