Middle Row, Centre: One Ba-a-a-d Teacher

Elizabeth Halsey, played by Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher, is a woman who knows what she wants.

What she wants is a new pair of breasts, to help her snare a rich guy and escape the teaching profession she hates so much.

As the film opens, the school year has come to an end and Elizabeth is leaving her position at a Chicago junior high to fulfill her dreams with the rich opera-loving mama’s boy she’s engaged to.

She comes home, only to be confronted by her fiancé and his mother, who announces that the engagement is over, since Elizabeth has blown $16,000 of her son’s money in the previous month.

The next term finds her back in the classroom, still hating every moment, still trolling for a wealthy suitor.

Elizabeth is brazen, profane and cynical. She drinks and smokes dope during and after school hours. When she meets up with Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), a geeky new substitute teacher who sports bowties and comes from a rich family, she sets her sights on him.

Her fellow teacher and rival for Scott’s affections is the a ptly-named Amy Squirrel.

She’s a young, perky, busybody goody-two-shoes type, played by British actress Lucy Punch (Dinner for Schmucks), whose cleancut insufferability is the perfect foil to Elizabeth’s slacker, scheming persona.

Elizabeth’s attitude toward teaching and her seventh-grade charges takes an about-face when she learns about a teaching excellence competition with a cash award that would bring her half-way toward the $10,000 she needs for her coveted breast implant.

From showing her class videos such as Stand and Deliver while sneaking drinks behind her desk, she transforms herself into a no-nonsense disciplinarian who makes her kids hit the books.

Pocketing some of the cash from a school car-wash fundraiser, where she brings in droves of customers by posing seductively atop her car, also helps her towards her goal.

Her nemesis Amy rats her out when she sees that she’s losing ground in her pursuit of Scott, but Elizabeth neatly sabotages Amy in a totally amoral manner.

Still, we’re rooting for her because her adversary is such a suck-up.

Bad Teacher‘s wonderfully irreverent tone strains our credulity that anyone who flouts the system so brazenly could stay in it for as long as she does.

At the same time, her very chutzpah compels us into her corner.

This is very much Diaz’s film. Her real-life-ex Timberlake’s performance is pretty wooden in comparison.

Punch is also excellent, with a comedic flair that makes her a natural as the feckless Amy.

This is probably director Jake Kasdan’s best effort since his 2007 rock music bio satire, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

While Bad Teacher is uneven in spots, the outrageousness of it its main protagonist carries it a long way.

Bad Teacher plays at the Qwanlin Cinema at 7:15 and 9:30 pm, and is rated 14A for sexual content and coarse language.

Brian Eaton is a cinema buff who reviews current films and writes on other film-related topics on a regular basis.

Brian Eaton is a cinema buff who reviews current films and writes on other film-related topics on a regular basis.

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