01 April 2014

Review: Bad Words

  

Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) admits he doesn’t always think things through before acting on them. That is a little obvious to the audience as he preps himself to take the stage opposite dozens of children to compete in a spelling bee. The reaction to a 40 year-old man taking place in a children’s competition is naturally a harsh one and, after Guy wins the trophy, he must run to escape with his head.

This is the third such bee that Guy has won on his course to the Golden Quills Spelling Bee finals in Los Angeles. The beat reporter (Kathryn Hahn) following Guy around on his trail of hurt feelings has a great number of questions about why Guy is doing all of this, but he isn’t saying. One thing is for sure, the man is a veritable terminator when it comes to picking out someone’s biggest insecurity and then pouncing on it.



He’s made a lot of enemies along his way to the finals, including Drs. Deagan and Bowman (Allison Janney and Philip Baker Hall) but despite his best efforts he may have found a friend anyway. One of the younger contestants, Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chand), tags along with Guy to eat chili dogs, put crustaceans where they shouldn’t be, and paying a hooker to show off her goods.

It goes without saying that Guy is an asshole, but much like Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa, our relatively filthy protagonist isn’t a bad guy at heart, though he does swear like one. Some would question whether or not Guy’s motives really do justify his questionable antics, yet when everything is revealed during the third act, some might feel differently. It may make audiences feel bad to laugh, but it was almost impossible not to as Bad Words rolls along.

Most of the laughs in Andrew Dodge's script come from material raunchy and offensive, but all of it would fall flat without Jason Bateman’s effortless wit. Bateman has played a lot of the straight men to showier co-stars in Arrested Development, Horrible Bosses and Identity Theft, so when given the chance to get a little wild, he excels.

If the star of the show weren’t quite busy enough in front of the camera, he made his directing debut behind it as well. Bateman has a good eye for the camera, including some popping montages set to the Beastie Boys as he and acting newcomer Rohan Chand. That Chand is so fresh-faced and innocent looking almost makes you want to turn away when Bateman includes him in something off-kilter. Almost.

Bad Words is an fresh debut from Jason Bateman, and as often as I laughed during this romp, I look forward to his next effort.