Friday, June 24, 2011

A Rather Striking Example of a 'Bad Teacher'

Elizabeth (Cameron Diaz) and Amy (Lucy Punch) have a showdown in the principal's office in "Bad Teacher." Photos courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

HELL hath no fury like a gold-digger shorn of her pick:

1. She’ll make a mockery of teaching i.e., drinking alcohol in class; sleeping in class, smoking dope on school grounds;
2. Dress provocatively to attract dirty men … er … cars to a 7th-grade car wash;
3. Skim a portion of the car wash profits;
4. Seduce, then blackmail a state education official;
5. Steal a standardized test;
6. Give a disturbing, new meaning to corporal punishment;
7. Show indifference toward and contempt for anyone who has no money and no use for her, and on and on and on.

In general, middle-school teacher Elizabeth Halsey really just doesn’t give an F. Yet, she is the protagonist in “Bad Teacher,” the comedy starring the delightfully way-over-the-top Cameron Diaz as the title character. It opens nationwide today.

“Bad Teacher,” directed by Jake Kasdan (“Freaks and Geeks”), is a perfect movie for the season. It is summertime and the living is easy. Light, funny, low-browesque fare with only one bit of toilet humor is the order of the day. This is a film that will attract a wide demographic; certain males – adolescents to near-death – will particularly enjoy it for no other reason than to feast their eyes on the delectable confection that is Senorita Diaz.

Elizabeth (Cameron Diaz) uses her considerable assets to drum up business for a car wash in "Bad Teacher."

Her Elizabeth looks like no middle-school teacher anyone has seen outside of a Hollywood film. Besides denim shorts that make Daisy Duke look matronly, her wardrobe includes form-fitting dresses and sweaters, pencil skirts, skinny jeans and omnipresent five-inch Christian Louboutins. Complementing these ensems are long, wavy blond hair, eyes that are the deepest ocean blue, a perfect tan and cherry-red pouty lips.

Elizabeth is a vision, and interestingly enough she looks classy rather than trashy (excepting the car wash get-up). Expensive, not cheap, as if she stepped off the cover of Vogue or ELLE – just the sort of woman many males covet. Lacking an A-list movie career or a seven-figure income, they can do the next best thing: plop down $10 or $12 and ogle her from the comfort of their seat in a darkened movie theater.

Comedy suits CD as well as that black, cap-sleeved linen dress with a flounced bodice in which Elizabeth is turned out in one scene. She earned her comedy chops in “There’s Something About Mary” and solidified them in “What Happens in Vegas” and the mini-franchise, “Charlie’s Angels.” How refreshing, a goodlooking actress who is not reluctant to laugh at herself and flirt with the limits; she’s a 21st-century Lucille Ball.

Elizabeth (Cameron Diaz) becomes no-nonsense when she learns that teaching can actually serve her interests in "Bad Teacher."

Speaking of ball, CD always seems to be having one in her comedies, her infectious energy bringing along the audience, too. To her credit, as well, CD is the type of showstopper that most women are not threatened by largely because she is unaware of and/or unaffected by her looks. She has a girl-next-door quality, too; one wants to be her friend. Other women could have a beer with her; they wouldn’t feel insecure about leaving CD alone with their boyfriend for two minutes.

In “Bad Teacher,” Elizabeth rates herself an 8 to 81/2. Ordinary mortals might give her 91/2 or even a 10. But in Elizabeth’s world – where the longer the legs, the slimmer the hips, the longer and possibly blonder the hair, the bigger the breasts – there is always some 22-year-old piece with a D-cup ready to take your 35-year-old B-cup place.

Elizabeth thought she’d struck gold until the mine owner’s mother cast her out. Alas, she has to start anew, and has decided that D-cups are the answer to all of her questions. But how to afford them? Beg, borrow, embezzle and steal, of course! This quest drives much of the comedy in “Bad Teacher.”

CD, who excels with at best average material in “Bad Teacher,” is surrounded by a winning supporting cast, including Lucy Punch who almost steals the film as her arch-rival for the affections of a fellow teacher; Phyllis Smith (“The Office”) is a colleague who idolizes Elizabeth, while Jason Segel is the gym teacher who dogs her for a date and calls her on her copious crap.

Elizabeth (Cameron Diaz), Russell (Jason Segel) and Scott (Justin Timberlake) have a moment during recess in "Bad Teacher."

Former real-life beau, Justin Timberlake, is the colleague/heir on whom Elizabeth has set her sights. The two have a romantic scene that is both a little discomfiting and tongue-in-cheek.

It is unlikely that “Bad Teacher” will be nominated for any Oscars (a best actress nod for CD? Not impossible). By the same token, it is doubtful that it will dominate at the Razzies. It is indeed perfect for the times.

After 92 minutes of "Bad Teacher," moviegoers should leave their seats feeling just a little better than when they arrived – not at all a bad thing.

“Bad Teacher” is rated R for sexual content, nudity, language, and some drug use.

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