Bad Teacher, despite its bawdry aspirations and frequent use of explicit language, simply isn’t as shocking as it hopes to be. Compared to similar fare, the excellent Election for example, Bad Teacher is entirely tame and dull in its execution.
Teacher Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) cares little for her chosen profession or any manner of career advancement. Unashamedly admitting that teaching’s main attraction was the extended summer breaks, Elizabeth is simply waiting for a wealthy man to take care of her.
When her fiancé realises Elizabeth’s only interest in him is monetary gain, Elizabeth is quickly rendered single. Forced to return to the profession she is so disinterested in Elizabeth, keen to find another wealthy man to look after her, determines that the affluent new substitute teacher Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake) is suitable for the task.
Lack of real laughs aside, it is Bad Teacher’s rather questionable concept that proves itself most concerning. Elizabeth, an attractive, intelligent woman not only relies on men to look after her, but is perfectly willing to undergo breast enlargement surgery in order to make herself more attractive to Scott, who she believes prefers well-endowed women.
This formulaic approach is ultimately thoroughly demeaning: much has been made of the lack of female-driven comedies and Bad Teacher certainly lacks any sense of progress. Elizabeth, despite her clear aptitude, has no desire to further or better herself without the aid of a man. She spends much of the film trading on her all-too-apparent beauty, dressing provocatively to render men powerless. Elizabeth is not empowered, despite her belief in her ability to do whatever she wants; she remains in thrall to the men around her, seeing these men as her only opportunity to succeed in life.
Bad Teacher is simply uninspired and distinctly underwhelming. Diaz is certainly believable as the crude Elizabeth, providing a few laughs and there certainly are some amusing set-pieces, just not enough memorable moments. For all its raunch, Bad Teacher is distinctly conventional, failing to break down any gender boundaries.