The Bad Teacher reviews are in, and they are mixed like the shots and weed Diaz’s character sucks down as her students watch Dead Poets Society. In Roger Ebert’s Bad Teacher review, as in many others, the film seems to invite comparisons between the awful educator and the terrible Saint Nick in Bad Santa. Bad Santa, it aint’. Writes Ebert, “Its bad person is neither bad enough or likable enough. The transgressions of Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) are more or less what you’d expect, but what’s surprising is that she’s so nasty and unpleasant.” The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday agrees, drawing the inevitable comparison to The Lady Movie of 2011. “What was playful and even progressive in Bridesmaids here feels strained and mean-spiritedly one-note as Elizabeth cuts an increasingly cruel swath through the school.” Perhaps more damning is the critique from After Elton’s Brent Hartinger, who shrugs, “It’s just completely forgettable – vaguely amusing at its best moments, eye-roll-inducing at its worst. And as usual, it’s hard to find much interesting to say about a movie that doesn’t have anything interesting to say.”
However, there are plenty of reviewers who praised the film, particularly those that once hunched behind a desk while their kids watched Finding Nemo with Spanish subtitles. Writes The Atlantic’s Eleanor Barkhorn, “It’s a cynical look at public education, and as a former teacher, I should probably pan it….I found myself watching Bad Teacher with a mix of glee and relief. This harshly funny, irreverent movie is just what the tired, clichéd genre of teacher films needs.” Meanwhile New York Mag’s David Edelstein practically challenged other critics to a knife fight over the film’s reputation, before declaring,”It’s a good, raunchy, gonzo comedy in the spirit of Bill Murray pictures like Meatballs and Stripes.” The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis praises the protagonist, if not the film as a whole, another common theme in the film. “Cameron Diaz taps into her inner thug. It’s a beautiful thing,” she writes. As you might have guessed, Phyllis Smith and Lucy Punch are the linchpin to the film’s humor, Diaz’s “relations with these women that help make Bad Teacher into something more than the latest in big-screen giggles and flatulence.” At least there’s something we can all agree on: Phyllis deserves an Oscar.