Cameron Diaz’s game charms are semi-squandered on a script that’s two-thirds filler.
It all sounded so promising. Cameron Diaz’s comedic comeback in the form of a foul-mouthed, ill-intentioned schoolteacher, directed by Freaks and Geeks alum Jake Kasdan with one-time real life paramour Justin Timberlake onside to add an extra dose of racy intrigue. Shame the end result’s more half-heartedly cheeky than bad to the bone, inconsistently rib-tickling and occasionally risqué, but over-long and over-padded.
Diaz is Elizabeth Halsey, a would-be trophy wife who’s dumped by her fiancé and returns to work as a junior high teacher with only one goal in mind: to snare herself a new sugar daddy. This she plans to do firstly by raising enough money to get a boob job, and secondly by luring new teach Timberlake (putting his creepy-awkward charms to fine comedic use) away from goody-two-shoes colleague Lucy Punch.
So far, so regressive, but it’s at least refreshing to see a female take on the 'overgrown adolescent' protagonist that’s defined years of Yank comedy – Diaz chews gum, smokes pot and shirks responsibility with the very best of Kevin Smith and Judd Apatow’s lead slackers. But her character is so irredeemably unpleasant, so cruel, shallow and passive, that it’s tough to find any desire for her to succeed.
There’s nothing wrong with a lead that’s more anti than hero, and it’s to scribes Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg’s credit that they never make any serious attempt to redeem Elizabeth. The problem, though, comes when we’re apparently expected to root for her happy ending with Jason Segel’s easygoing gym teacher. Instead – Segel’s being the only character that bears any resemblance to a real person amidst a menagerie of caricatures – you want him to run a mile.
The script otherwise supplies an inconsistent mix of genuinely biting gags with mediocre slapstick and poorly-conceived set pieces, with most of the laughs arising from the Diaz-Timberlake affair. The much-trailed 'sit on his face' line is present and correct, and there’s a couple of equally salty moments – including a quite spectacular dry humping scene – that serve only as frustrating tasters of how much better and more irreverent this all could have been.
Diaz back on raunchy comedic form? Top of the class.
Diverting enough, but belly laughs are few and far between. Must try harder.
Diaz’s game charms are semi-squandered on a script that’s two-thirds filler. Not quite detention, but on thin ice.