Director Jake Kasdan has plenty to work with in his fifth directorial stint, Bad Teacher, but the end is a mixed bag of results. Elizabeth (Diaz) is the worst teacher you’ve ever seen, who kisses off all of the teachers and students at her school to get married… and winds up back at the school when her fiance dumps her for being a gold-digger.
Returning to school, Elizabeth finds herself pursued by the gym teacher, Russell Gettis (Jason Segel), while she is in turn pursuing substitute Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake). She’s also stuck between her doting supporter Lynn Davies (Phyllis Smith) and her archnemesis Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch). Both Squirrel and Elizabeth want Delacorte, but Squirrel actually seems like a teacher who cares about her kids, unlike Elizabeth.
The cast is pretty well a lineup of comedic talent: John Michael Higgins, Molly Shannon, Eric Stonestreet, and others highlight the bonuses in the flick. And it is funny, in a gross-out, over-the-top way, but not nearly as crazy as you might expect. We might be inclined to think this is Bad Santa: The Teacher Edition, but instead it’s the study of a woman who has nothing going for her, whose highest aspiration is to get a breast implant, and finds a way to suck the joy out of everything… including Christmas!
Elizabeth begins to find “success” by cheating, manipulating, and seducing her way to the top. Her kids “succeed,” too, but it’s not the way that you’d want them to. Still, by the end of the movie, we actually think she might’ve learned something herself. Can a lifetime “user” become a “giver?” Can she pick the right guy, get motivated by the right things, and appreciate herself the way that she is?
Bad Teacher might be a horrible movie as some have suggested. It might be completely lifted by the power of Diaz’s performance into something mediocre. But in the middle, there’s a discovery of what it means to be in community, and what it means to figure out who you are in the process (even if it’s a mixed-up, backward sort of thing). Learning that we are not on our own, moving outside of preoperational understandings of the universe, is the big step toward fulfilling our lives as we should in the kingdom of God… but sometimes, that step is one giant leap.
Special features on the Blu-ray include the “JAMS Yearbook-Hidden Moments” that allows you to interact with the best lines and odds-and-ends of each main character, the gag reel that basically shows Diaz completely struggling to keep a straight face while delivering some of her more perverse lines, the outtakes which continue the vibe but include more cast members, and a set of behind-the-scenes specials. The standard version features (which are included on the Blu-ray as well) include the deleted scenes, outtakes, and two behind-the-scenes takes.
Of the special features, Higgins’ behind-the-scenes’ special “Swimming with the Dolphins,” definitely proves amusing in an understated sort of way, but “A Very Odd Blacksmith Story” might actually be a more insightful, even if it’s all silliness. Fans will appreciate watching Segel and Timberlake go “Way Behind-the-Scenes” just because they’re goofing off. In fact, realistically, all of the behind-the-scenes bits prove to be more silly than serious, and given the feel of the movie, that’s just fine.