I would like to begin this review by saying that I walked into Bad Teacher with an unfair bias against the film. It wasn’t that I thought it would be bad necessarily; it’s just that I saw this film as a vehicle for Cameron Diaz, an icon from the late nineties, that would seemingly attempt to recapture her lost sex appeal some thirteen years after There’s Something About Mary was released. Now having seen the film, I don’t think my initial impression was wrong, but I was quite pleasantly surprised by the biting cynicism and shear contempt for the suburbanite value system conveyed through brash junior high school teacher Elizabeth Halsey (Diaz).
Although the opening sequence is misleadingly dull, it accurately portrays the sterile suburban lifestyle with a realism that only disenchanted former-suburbanites could achieve. It was no real surprise then, when I discovered after the fact that the screenplay was written by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, two of the former staff writers from The Office. That also explained why the dialogue of gym teacher Russell (Jason Segel), bore an unmistakable resemblance to Jim from The Office.
Sometimes predictable, but always hilarious, Bad Teacher is a witty satire on conventional suburban values that never misses a beat. If you grew up in the suburbs, you will probably experience twinges of nostalgia, between fits of laughter. Cameron Diaz’s character’s transformation in the film from heartless gold-digger to caring teacher is less than believable, but for the endless potshots that the writers take at the blandness of middle class suburbia this shortfall in characterization can be forgiven. Overall, this film is one of the best mainstream comedies to come out this year.
Bad Teacher opens wide in Philly area theaters today.
Rob Buscher is co-founder of both Zipangu Fest, the UK’s first Japanese film festival, as well as the Philadelphia Japan Arts Matsuri. He currently works at the Greater Philadelphia Film Office.