We use words every day to communicate, but sometimes things get so out of hand, outrageous, or just plain weird that we are at a loss for words. That’s where “bad words” come into play. These colorful words, usually 4-5 letters long, help convey full thoughts and expressions on what is currently going on. When over-used, they give off the impression of low intelligence or just a vulgar person. Unsurprisingly, that also aptly describes Jason Bateman’s directorial debut, Bad Words.
Guy Trilby is a middle-aged man who decides to exploit a loophole in a national spelling bee competition in order to make it to the championship match. He uses his considerable age experience to manipulate, out smart, and outright intimidate/berate the competition. Like the multitudes of outraged parents, Reporter Jenny (Kathryn Hahn), who has been financing his expenses, wants to find out his motivation behind trying to win the spelling bee.
If he has another agenda he sure isn’t letting on about it as he stampedes from regional competition to state competition, and all the way to nationals, leaving a trail of broken/trampled children in his wake. Putting down children has led him far, that is, until he’s met his polar opposite and match in Chaitanya (Rohan Chand), who develops an odd, completely inappropriate friendship with Guy. With all of the parents complaining, the head of the spelling competition, Dr. Bernice Deagan (Allison Janney) is forced to take special measures to ensure Guy does not win the competition.
It is no surprise that Jason Bateman plays an asshole with the ease that Rohan plays an adorable little kid. It’s so effortless and believable that it hardly seems like they are trying at all. Directing is something that isn’t typical for Jason Bateman, but he does a very competent job with this film, showing a promising future in directing. My problem with this material is from first time writer Andrew Dodge, who gives us a vulgar script with few laughs.
I’m not at all a prude, but there were a few scenes and jokes that crossed the line from inappropriately funny to universally obscene. His reliance on shock humor is a crutch that barely holds up the movie, with more jokes missing their mark than actually hitting it. The jokes that do land are then turned around and overused throughout the film, getting less than a chuckle after its umpteenth incarnation. Yes, I’m referring to the Indian jokes. This movie has a near emotional turn close to the end, and while it has the potential to be a complete game changer for the film, it falls far too short to make up for everything the film has done wrong up to this point.
While Bad Words swears that it’s a good movie, I’m not so easily convinced. The only good thing that came from this movie was seeing Jason Bateman play his best type of character and finding out that he is a very competent director. That and all the Indian jokes made me want to watch the film they came from, Slumdog Millionaire.
RATING: ★★★★★(5/10 stars)
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