“Bad Teacher” (MA) ★ ★

I NEVER expected to see Cameron Diaz looking unattractive but she does in Jake Kasdan’s discordant hymn to bad taste playing Elizabeth, employed as a teacher at a school where management does nothing to query her manifest unsuitability for that profession.

Elizabeth is a gold-digger. No reason to why a teacher shouldn’t do that if she has the energy after school hours. But in the workplace, Elizabeth is lazy, selfish, manipulative, a thief and a liar.

Diaz does her best to breathe life into that swindle. But as the lecturer told a young me while rejecting my assignment at an ANU screenwriting seminar: “You’ve denied your central character any likeable qualities”. Writers Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg have fallen into the same trap.

“Bad Teacher” is well-sprinkled with pejorative use of the “f” word, apparently to generate laughter. The people who watched it with me failed for the most part to rise to that or any other of the writers’ blandishments.

A woman’s desperate quest for money for breast augmentation in the hope of attracting a wealthy husband offers scope for great comedy. But this one’s insistence on denying Elizabeth any redeeming qualities ruins its chances despite a half-hearted attempt to justify itself in the last reel.

At all cinemas

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