Forget men behaving badly. This summer, it’s Girls Gone Wild at the movies.
In the new film “Bad Teacher,” opening Friday, Cameron Diaz plays perhaps the world’s worst middle school teacher. She lies, cheats and even steals test scores, all in a plot to win a cash prize … which she plans to use to get breast implants.
In today’s Hollywood, that kind of story qualifies as a ‘feel good’ comedy.
Sure, “The Hangover Part 2” is a colossal hit, but filthy film humor is no longer a boys-only game. The women of the industry are showing they can rise — or sink — to the occasion, too. For film critic Alison Bailes, it’s a welcome change.
“It's about time! I am very happy to see women finally able to represent all facets of themselves on film,” said Bailes, film critic for More Magazine and a contributor to “Ebert Presents At the Movies” and TODAY. “It's a relief to see a film such as 'Bridesmaids,' where the women aren't playing just love interests or moms.”
In “Bridesmaids,” the female stars threw up on each other, relieved themselves on public streets, and two of them even made out on a plane. That unladylike behavior has paid huge dividends. “Bridesmaids” is a monster hit, earning more than $136 million at the box office. No doubt the people behind “Bad Teacher” hope to draft on that success.
Women taking part in raunchy comedies is nothing new; in recent years, a number of laughers, including the bulk of Judd Apatow’s films, have all featured memorable female roles. 2011 however, is quickly becoming a watershed year for rowdy female comedy, and now the women have stepped beyond supporting roles to lead the show.
Aside from “Bridesmaids,” the January comedy hit “No Strings Attached” featured Natalie Portman wearing the pants in a sex-without-attachment relationship with Ashton Kutcher. Next month sees a comedy with a similar theme, “Friends With Benefits.” The trailers for that movie seem to promise Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis will be pushing the envelope in search of laughs. August brings “The Change-Up,” with a trailer featuring scene-stealing expert Leslie Mann sitting on a toilet regretting her choice of Thai for dinner.
While there is definitely an uptick in estrogen-laced onscreen naughtiness, “it’s not an entirely new trend,” says Entertainment Weekly senior editor Thom Geier.
“Its been 20 years since 'Thelma & Louise,' the original bad girls on screen movie that was an Oscar-nominated hit,’” notes Geier. “But even more recently, the first 'Sex and the City' movie showed there was an appetite for R-rated comedy material [starring women].”
“Women go to see these movies, too,” Geier points out. “I think there’s sort of an acknowledgement that women aren’t as averse to raunch as some people thought.”
Diaz is no stranger to outrageous comedy. She starred in “There’s Something About Mary,” “The Sweetest Thing” and “What Happens in Vegas.” But in “Bad Teacher,” Diaz is nastier than ever.
She drops enough F-bombs to make Whitney Cummings blush, smokes pot in the school parking lot, acts like an extra in a Whitesnake video at the students’ car wash fundraising effort, and even skims some of their money for her "boob fund." Oh, and she also shakes down her students’ parents for extra cash by promising them private tutoring.
Diaz's willingness to go all out for the laugh — and have fun while doing so — is what makes the actress so well suited for bad-girl comedy.
“Diaz has managed to cultivate a 'cool chick' image. She appears to be the kind of girl that can hang with the guys, surf with the dudes, and down beers while still looking hot,” says Bailes. “She has always seemed to be in on the joke.”
Geier agrees. “[Diaz] has never just been the pretty girl, or the girl next door, like Julia Roberts,” he said. “She probably appeals as much to guys as much as girls.”
It’s probably also enjoyable to cut loose from the typical roles Hollywood tends to insist upon for female stars. Portman spoke of how much fun she had breaking free of her serious image with “No Strings Attached” and later, “Your Highness.” The Oscar winner is even pitching studios a raunchy comedy script she herself wrote.
With "Bridesmaids," and now "Bad Teacher" breaking the mold, could raunchy comedy become a new way for actresses to re-establish their importance in an industry increasingly dominated by comic book tales and effects-laden male-centric movies?
"'Bridesmaids' is a beacon of hope. Not that I want to see three 'Bridesmaids' sequels,” says Bailes. “But it sends a message to writers and studio heads that films that feature women in the lead roles can be profitable.”
“I think there’s an element of that,” says EW’s Geier. “I think it’s also girls knocking on the boy’s playhouse in Hollywood.”
After all, why should boys have all the fun?
Michael Avila is a writer based in New York. Follow his pop culture musings on Twitter.