Bad Teacher is a poor man’s Bad Santa but I can’t deny that the movie was fairly amusing for a Tuesday afternoon. Bad Teacher follows the story of Bad Santa almost to a tee with the life of a depressed and hostile person doing a job that they don’t want to be doing anymore. The life they lead in both movies is one that includes drugs, alcohol, and children. The only huge difference between the two films is that Bad Teacher may be a little less dark but it still has your crude and offensive humor that we liked so much in Bad Santa. It is funny that I am comparing these two films as if they were sequels or one was a spin off of the other but it is hard not to see the similarities in these two “unrelated” works. The biggest problem with Bad Teacher is that It may be too similar to Bad Santa but that may also be its biggest strength. Even if Bad Teacher is somewhat of a rip off, the concept is still funny and the film has some moments where it shines in its own right.
When watching a comedy film it is hard sometimes to judge how funny a film actually is. An artistic or dark comedy film may not be as funny as your gross out comedies but they make up for it with their story telling and depth. Bad Teacher is neither an art house film nor does it contain any considerable depth but as far as making me laugh the film did its job. Diaz does her best Billy Bob Thornton impression here, which she does pretty well. The character never crosses over the line where the audience can’t accept or like her but like Thornton the character treads the line of taste pretty flawlessly. I mean I didn’t like that Diaz’s character does disrupt some lives for here own gain or that her character doesn’t have a fitting redemption but at least at the end of the film we see someone that can be filled with good intentions from time to time. That is what is important about characters like this, that they may do some horrific things on screen but we can accept this because there is some kind of redeeming quality hidden underneath that stubborn and self-destructive personality. A lot of us have that asshole friend that may show some heart sometimes but when they are an asshole, man they can be a huge asshole. Diaz embodies this personality.
The other supporting characters come from an awry of sitcoms, low budget comedies, and one from a nineties boy band. I really like Jason Segel and his performance isn’t really all that funny but of a character that fits a specific need for the film. Segel does this well and gives a performance that is both welcoming and likeable. Timberlake is a better actor than he is a musician and although he doesn’t match the charismatic performance from The Social Network, his performance here is quirky and better than it ought to be. The last supporting performances I want to talk about is the performance of Lucy Punch who plays the main “villain” of the film. Maybe it was the mistake of the screenplay or the loveliness of Mrs. Punch but I felt nothing but empathy for her character. I wish that the main bad guy would have been someone with flaws or bad intentions but her character really doesn’t do anything wrong except for being annoying and overbearing to her co-workers. Punch is great in this film for being the polar opposite of Diaz and is sometimes a more likable character than her rival.
The screenplay here really isn’t that great. In most films that center around someone unwillingly being put in charge of children, the children characters seem to have distinct personalities and contribute to overall redemption of our main character. But here the children are more or less disposable and seem little more than plot devices for are writers. Some of the great things about these sorts of films are to see a person that has no interest in the kids that they are mentoring start to actually enjoy being around them and in some ways positively influence their lives. There are hints of that in Bad Teacher but unlike many of its counterparts it doesn’t give us meaningful arcs to the children. Sometimes they don’t even bother to create an arc and most of the children aren’t distinct enough to even deserve one.
It’s kinda sad to say that Diaz’s impersonation performance is what lifts this film from being mediocre to enjoyable but it is. She exhumes so much confidence and her character never goes over the top. Diaz plays her character with reserve and almost with a certain amount of charm. I’m pretty sure that if a lesser actress where to be cast in the lead role the film would of collapsed under its main character but Diaz holds the film together. She made me laugh and kept me entertained for 90 minutes and for a film that is strict comedy, there is not much more you could ask for.