Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz)
Following in the footsteps of Billy Bob Thornton’s Bad Santa, Diaz’ Elizabeth Halsey is probably the worst seventh-grade teacher ever. She doesn’t really teach her kids; she just has them watch movies about other teachers teaching, including some of the ones in this gallery. She’s lazy, she smokes pot, she’s a gold-digger whose main interest is in saving up for a boob job so she can attract a rich husband.
But when she learns that there’s a cash bonus for the teacher whose students perform the best on a standardized test, she snaps into action and makes her kids hit the books while she connives to steal the answers. Elizabeth is also fortunate in her choice of enemies, particularly the irritatingly chirpy Miss Squirrel (Lucy Punch).
Give the movie credit for having the courage of its sour convictions; Elizabeth is not redeemed by the good will of others, nor does she learn anything (though Diaz’ performance hints at a rueful awareness that her arsenal of seductive tricks for manipulating others won’t work forever). In the end, she’s rewarded with a promotion of sorts, to guidance counselor. At least she’s no longer doing any damage in the classroom.