Cameron Diaz joins a recent tradition in films: The Bad Seed. Billy Bob Thornton was a bad coach (and so was Walter Matthau, for that matter) in “Bad News Bears”, he was also a bad Kris Kringle in “Bad Santa”, but now Cameron Diaz can be added as a bad teacher in the film of the same name. Jake Kasdan returns with one of his most sustained efforts compared to his funny but uneven previous efforts “Orange County” and “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”. What helps the film is the very funny ensenble cast which includes Jason Segel, John Michael Higgins, Phyllis Smith (from TV’s The Office), Justin Timberlake, and Lucy Punch.
Elizabeth Halsey (Diaz) at the start is at her last day as a teacher at JAMS (John Adams Middle School) due to summer nuptuals. Well, the wedding plans fall through and it’s back to the old grind at the school. For Elizabeth Halsey, that means showing movie after movie in her class featuring inspirational teachers. Funny how movies that she shows like “Lean On Me” and “Stand And Deliver” aren’t the call to action that they should be for her. Oh well, she’s not paying attention anyway as she secretly knocks back airplane bottles of Jim Beam and Jack Daniels at her desk. She’s lazy, disinterested, and seeking the path of least resistance at her job. Seeing one of her students crying in the hallway she turns around so she doesn’t have to get involved. However, one thing changes her mind about her job and that’s the new (and wealthy) teacher, Scott Delacorte (a very funny, nerdy Justin Timberlake). Whether it’s him or his family money or perhaps a combination of the two, Elizabeth makes a run for his affections. However just as she starts to make strides Delacorte starts seeing Halsey’s rival, the goody-good Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) which just adds fuel to their rivalry. The other thing that changes for her is that she learns of a bonus for the teacher whose class gets the highest grades on the state exam. Suddenly, she’s seeing a way of getting money for a boob job that she has been thinking about. Now, she’s pushing her students to learn “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Animal Farm” using unique means (including throwing dodgeballs at students who get questons wrong) and when those means fail she is not above seeking other more unethical means. Throw in a gym teacher (Jason Segel) who has his eyes set on Elizabeth, a clueless principal (John Michael Higgins) that’s got an odd fixation for dolphins, and an eccletic mix of students and you have a very funny movie. Some notable bit players include Molly Shannon, Eric Stonestreet (TV’s Modern Family), and Thomas Lennon (Comedy Central’s very missed Reno 911) round out the stellar comedic cast.
Bottom Line: Fans of off the wall and wild comedies should see this. It’s a showcase for Diaz who continues to prove that when given the right material she can shine. The cast works well together and the film hits the right notes. Diaz might be a bad teacher but this is a good movie that comes very recommended.
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