Raunchy Cameron Diaz flick bad for wrong reasons

BAD TEACHER (MA)

Director: Jake Kasdan

Stars: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel

Screening: general release

Rating: *

I would have thought the wilfully sexy Cameron Diaz (There’s Something About Mary, Charlie’s Angels) playing a bad, bad girl would be an easy “A” but her Bad Teacher scores straight “Fs” for theory, practical and effort.

This is a rude and raunchy girls-behaving-badly comedy that starts out trying to be bitter and twisted but winds up predictable and rather dull.

Diaz plays Elizabeth Halsey, a boozy, pot-smoking, totally self-absorbed gold-digger who is only teaching seventh-graders so she can make enough money to get the boob job she is convinced will help her land a suitably rich hubby.

Of course she instantly makes a B-line for James Adams Middle School’s new substitute teacher Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), an impossibly nice, impossibly rich drip with a flashy car and a flashy wristwatch.

A lying, cheating and manipulative minx, Miss Halsey says vulgar things to her students, does nasty things to her fellow teachers and smokes illegal things before class.

Her idea of class work is to bung on DVDs of blackboard jungle movies like Stand and Deliver, Lean on Me and Dangerous Minds while she nurses her permanent hangover slumped at her desk.

She supplements her meagre wage by getting nearly naked and very wet at her class’s fund-raiser car wash, and by stealing exam questions to give her students an advantage that might win her a bonus.

But when her students need honest dating advice and she finds an unexpected kindred spirit in flabby gym teacher Jason Segel, can the horrible Miss Halsey possibly find redemption?

More importantly, will we give a toss?

The answers: yes, but unconvincingly. And no, not at all.

Banish all thought that Bad Teacher might be a schoolyard variation on Billy Bob Thornton’s fabulously vile Bad Santa.

This is default-mode juvenile raunch; mean-spirited, with one-note characters and peppered with the same old gross-out gags involving adolescent erections, fondled breasts, loud bowel movements and tacky wet patches.

There’s one especially bizarre, fully clothed sex scene between Diaz and real-life ex Timberlake that elicits a solid snigger.

Another sequence hints at the squandered possibilities of the premise: an exasperated Miss Halsey runs a red pen over her students’ homework, writing the sort of abject profanities that every teacher at one time or another must be sorely tempted to scrawl in fury.

But the rest of the film – as our bad-news hottie outsmarts the dorky principal (John Michael Higgins) and goes to war over Mr Delacorte with alarmingly perky colleague Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) – is a drag.

Like Segel and Higgins, Phyllis Smith (from the US version of The Office) and Eric Stonestreet (from Modern Family) are wasted in supporting roles.

Only Punch, as Miss Halsey’s brittle and nutty love rival Miss Squirrel, manages to cut through the ho-hum ha-ha of writers Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg (whose previous credits include execrable caveman comedy Year One).

In the end Bad Teacher feels too much like detention. For a good time with bad girls, see Bridesmaids again instead.

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