Because the two movies have already been compared to each other, here’s a little quiz: which one of these two stories do you think was written by women, and which one of them was written by men? The first story is about what it’s like to be single, working in a job you hate and jealous of your best friend’s engagement and her burgeoning friendship with someone else. The second one is about a hot, gold-digging, pot smoking teacher who uses men to get what she wants until she eventually falls for a nice, funny guy with no money.
The first story is the plot of Bridemaids, which was written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo. The second story is the plot of Bad Teacher, which opens today and was written by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg. I’m not saying that women couldn’t have written this screenplay, but in Stupnitsky and Eisenberg’s world, not only does Cameron Diaz walk around dressed like a call girl, she smokes pot, drinks, swears like a sailor, uses her looks to manipulate men and is a thief. And why does she do most of these things? To raise money for breast implant surgery, so that she can find a rich husband.
The first scene of the movie is a good-bye party for Diaz’s character Elizabeth Halsey, since she is engaged and leaving teaching forever. As she burns rubber out of the parking lot, we can tell that educating youngsters wasn’t really her passion. Unfortunately, Elizabeth comes home to find her fiancé and his mother waiting for her, and not long after this encounter is forced to go back to teaching. So that she can sleep off her hangovers, Elizabeth makes her class watch movies about teachers teaching – Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds, etc. – and after school begins plotting how to raise the $5,700 she needs to get her implants.
When a rich, dumb guy named Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake) starts substitute teaching at the school, Elizabeth sets her sights on him. Unfortunately, fellow teacher Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) does, too, and the women begin competing viciously for his affections. In the meantime, gym teacher Russell Gettis (Jason Segel) makes it clear he’s interested in Elizabeth and she continually shoots him down because he doesn’t earn enough.
Cameron Diaz is very good at comedy, and being mean is clearly fun for her. When her bright blue eyes are sizing up a rival or a potential victim, you can see the wheels turning in her pretty head and fear for the other person. But the story of Bad Teacher is so thin, and Elizabeth’s goals are so distasteful, that the story doesn’t feel very funny. By time she finally does something nice for someone, we don’t care about anyone in the movie anyway, since everyone besides smirking Russell and stressed out principal Wally Snur (John Michael Higgins) are so thoroughly dislikable.
Had Stupnitsky and Eisenberg told the story of a single teacher who hates teaching, and is awful at it, and who is desperately looking for a husband and failing, that might have been funny. But sticking Cameron Diaz in tight clothes and having her character arc hinge on a new set of breasts is a waste of our time and her talent.