‘Bad Words’ Spells S.U.C.C.E.S.S. for Jason Bateman Both in Front and Behind the Scenes (Movie Review)

Bad Words TNBad Words will not be an Oscar contender.  The casting was a bit predictable and the storyline was borderline cheesy.  This sounds like the build up to a horribly disappointing movie, but there is one aspect that is done to such perfection that it makes this movie just brilliant.  Even at Jason Bateman’s worse, he never disappoints with his sharp wit and sarcastic repartee, but in Bad Words he takes this one step further.  Bateman delivers brutally vicious insults with utterly offensive conversation to dark humor perfection.  And this movie doesn’t pretend to be anything more than that.  The plot is simple and simpler yet are the subplots without a trace of pretension coming anywhere near the film.  Personally, I feel that what the film lacked was partly intentional as to allow the limelight to shine that much brighter on the content that mattered most—disgustingly darker than black humor.

Bad Words follows 40 year old, Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) on his merciless mission to win The Golden Quill National Spelling Bee.  Guy weasels his way into the competition using his 8th grade dropout status as grounds for entry.  Trilby’s spelling skills are as sharp as his sarcasm, which he ruthlessly uses in combination to plow over his preteen competition.  As callous as Guy presents himself, the only positive attention he attracts is that of the incorrigibly optimistic American-Indian boy, Chaitainya (Rohan Chand) whom desperately wants to make friends with someone… anyone.  To Guy’s initial dismay, Chaitainya slowly wins Guy’s approval and the two play out a buddy routine that’s unlike the usual.  Guy treats Chaitainya as a fraternity brother and although there is a 30 year age difference, their immaturity levels are undistinguishable.  When Guy isn’t slinging insults to little “Chai-Whalla,” he’s partaking in a two-sided dysfunctional relationship with journalist, Jenny Widgeon (Kathryn Hahn).  But Guy doesn’t discriminate his vulgarity to those closest to him.  Guy spreads his venomous attitude onto Golden Quill staff (played by Allison Janney and Phillip Baker Hall) contestants and parents alike.  Rachael Harris makes a hilarious short lived appearance as a contestant’s mother as she epically fails to retaliate against Guy’s verbal abuse.

Bad Words marks Jason Bateman’s directorial debut.  A bold move as a first time director to also play the leading role, but Bateman delivers as both.  Perhaps a coincidence, but Bateman’s character doesn’t follow suit to his usual sarcastically responsible and borderline push-over type characters; most notably Arrested Development.  Guy is an immature, mean-spirited, curmudgeon that takes pleasure in seeing others shocked and insulted from his below the belt comments.  Perhaps the screenplay called to Bateman for this very reason—still allowing him to deliver the comedy that he knows but straying from his type cast character just enough to challenge himself both in front and behind the camera.

Hollywood would do best to let Jason Bateman back into the director’s chair after delivering this comedic gem.  Bad Words is set for limited theater release, however I would not be surprised if we see this film taking off to be a huge hit particularly in DVD and digital release if theater selection remains small.  The film is rated R for oh so many bad words among other adult themes.  This may also restrain the success in theater, but perhaps forming a cult comedy status in the same likes as Bad Santa, Tommy Boy or Borat.

Everyone likes to cheer for the underdog, and although straying (exceedingly far) from the typical, Guy Trilby still fits the criteria.  Every single character, at one time or another, expresses their desire for the expulsion of Guy from the spelling competition.  But you can’t help but cheer Guy to victory all while busting a gut watching him demolish the adolescent competition.  Being able to laugh at situations that common courtesy and general upbringing tell us is inappropriate and rude also is highly satisfactory.  With every person Guy comes in contact with, you’ll find yourself rooting for him to push his insults to the next level of offensive, and you can rest assured that you won’t be disappointed.  Even when things get so sick and twisted that you find yourself gasping for air when a ten year old stares a fully exposed middle aged prostitute straight in the chest, you still find yourself wanting more.  When a comedy makes you feel this confident and shameless for laughing at such disgusting circumstances you can rest assured that it’s a winner.

Bad Words Movie Poster


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