Raddled Chicago teacher Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) curses at her students, likes a drink, and plans to marry her wealthy fiance. When he dumps her, she tries to win over substitute teacher Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake) in competition with fellow educator Amy Squirrell (Lucy Punch). What Elizabeth doesn't realise is that school gym teacher Russell Gettis (Jason Segel) is giving her the glad eye. Raucous comedy from Walk Hard director Jake Kasdan.
Remember that teacher you had at school who stood out from the rest? The one who inspired you to do things that changed your life, the one who made you feel as if you could achieve anything?
Well, Cameron Diaz is not that teacher. As Elizabeth Halsey, a smoking-hot faculty member with a mouth fouler than a Tarantino script and a temper to match, Diaz shows off her comedy chops, displaying the kind of sunny charisma (despite the hangovers) that has charmed audiences since There's Something About Mary.
When Halsey is forced to return to work after being unceremoniously dumped by her opera-loving fiancé, she makes it her mission to bag a rich man (cue Justin Timberlake) with the help of some larger, erm, assets.
Good grades are not exactly Halsey's forte - she lights joints in the gym ("weed is cool"), teaches exclusively via film ("movies are the new books") and steals money from charity events. But that was before she needed to get her finely manicured mitts on the $5000 prize for the class with the top grades...
Lucy Punch (of Hot Fuzz fame) is deliciously whiny as Amy Squirrel, Halsey's love rival and do-gooder extraordinaire, and J-T plays the wet blanket card with surprising aplomb, including an N-Sync parody guaranteed to amuse anyone who remembers the 90s boy band in its heyday.
Those hoping for a glimpse into the romantic life of celebrity exes Diaz and Timberlake will be disappointed though. The trouser-snake is (intentionally) not at his most desirable and, and it's no mean feat that Jason Segal, as the sardonic gym teacher, emerges as the more attractive one. Segal is on fine form, delivering each deadpan line with perfect timing.
But Bad Teacher never quite delivers as much as you're expecting it to. Too many lines fall flat and Diaz's sexed-up appearance is never quite enough to rescue a script that veers uncertainly between tentative character development and out and out absurdity.
Should we sympathise with Halsey? If we do it is only because her rivals are so deeply annoying that she wins our affection by default. Having an anti-hero only really works if he or she changes for the better or if the moral context of the story collapses. Here we have neither.
It's been a prolific year for American comedy and if Hangover 2 was a Fail and Bridesmaids gained a distinction, this film sits firmly in the 'pass' bracket. High marks for effort, but it's not going to win any prizes.