Bad Words (2014)

Posted: June 28, 2014 in Movies

bad-words-blu-ray-cover-73Jason Bateman has been on a roll over the last five years. From Juno to Extract to the more recent The Change-Up and Horrible Bosses, Bateman has morphed from one of Hollywood’s smiling pretty boys to one of the darker, stranger comedic actors of the day. That trend continues in Bad Words, which also marks Bateman’s motion picture directorial debut.

The story is set around Bateman’s character Guy Trilby, a 40-year-old ball of anger who manipulates a loophole to enter a the national Golden Quill spelling bee. Trilby has an axe to grind, so he enters – and dominates – a regional spelling bee in Columbus, Ohio. Regulators – played by Allison Janney and Philip Baker Hall – try to prevent Trilby from competing at the national level. But seeing as how he never graduated from eighth grade, he technically qualifies for the competition… and he’s hellbent on winning.

Bateman soft plays the role as a vile, crass competitor – and that’s a huge plus in the movie. Even though the dialogue is filled with four-letter words and insanely rude commentary, Bateman goes less for the shock value and more for the laughs with perfect timing and delivery – making his character believable and honest. The film carries much of the same “feel” as Billy Bob Thorton’s Bad Santa (which is easily one of this author’s favorite flicks), and has the same asshole/kid connection. Rohan Chand plays bee competitor Chaitanya Chopra, and provides the brightest ray of sunshine opposite Bateman’s dark cloud of gloom. The duo’s journey to redemption by way of conventional life lessons may be a little predictable, but their love/hate big-brother interchanges end up being the highlights of Bateman’s simple, silly story.  In fact, you almost end up rooting for the poor schmuck, despite his imperfections and failures as a human being.

bad-words-movie-poster-4

So why, exactly, does a 40-year-old compete in a child’s competition? That’s the one underlying mystery to it all, which reveals itself in almost heart-warming fashion in the end – but I’ll save the details as to not ruin it for you. You won’t get too caught up in that aspect of the film, anyway – as you’ll be too busy laughing yourself silly to even think about it.

As with Bad Santa, the film looks – on the surface – like a film for both adults and children, but such is not the case. Unless you want your sons and daughters to learn words they shouldn’t “say” let alone “spell”, save Bad Words for an after-hour viewing – long after the wee ones are tucked away for the night.  But do check it out, as it is easily Bateman’s best performance of his career, and shows that he is ready for the big time from a directorial standpoint as well.

8.5/10 – Rated R for Language and Brief Nudity

On DVD and BluRay July 8th.

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