The new comedy Bad Words certainly lives up to its name. If you go to this movie expecting a family-friendly movie about kids’ spelling bees, then you will be in for quite a shock. Hopefully, the fact that the poster is nothing but a close-up of star Jason Bateman’s mouth clearly forming the f-bomb will help more sensitive moviegoers steer clear. For those who aren’t turned off by offensive language and raunchy comedy, though, Bad Words is exactly what you hope it would be.
Bateman plays Guy Trilby, a 40-year-old who finds a loophole in the National Spelling Bee rule book that allows him to participate despite his advanced age. His goal is to win the whole thing, but his motivations are left a mystery for most of the movie. Does he need the money? Does he just want the attention? Or does he simply enjoy being a jerk to dozens of kids, parents, and faculty members?
At the weekend-long National Bee tournament, Guy reluctantly finds himself in the company of an 11-year-old named Chaitanya Chopra. It comes as no surprise that the boy quickly becomes Guy’s biggest rival, but what it is a surprise is that he also becomes the closest thing Guy has to a friend. Of course, when it comes down to the final round, the gloves come off.
Bad Words does not pull any punches. It’s loaded from beginning to end with racially and sexually charged humor that is sure to turn off some viewers, but it is all in good fun. Anyone willing to leave their sensitivity and political correctness out in the lobby will find this to be a movie that is so funny at times that you miss the dialogue that follows up the jokes. Even as the rivalry between Guy and Chaitanya moves more towards a friendship, the movie maintains its nasty tone and resists becoming sentimental.
The relationship between the two is the heart of the movie. They are complete opposites. Guy is a sourpuss who gets through life by being a complete a-hole to everybody, while Chaitanya is an eternal optimist. Guy is not much nicer to Chaitanya than he is to anyone else; it’s just that the boy has an incredible ability to not let anything faze him. He’s used to being bullied, after all. He gets worse at school.
In Bad Words, we get to see Jason Bateman at his absolute nastiest. He has played guys that aren’t necessarily the nicest people before, but in this movie he completely goes for it as the selfish, foul-mouthed jerk. Obviously, he knew he could pull it off. After all, he cast himself in the role, this being his first feature as a director.
He also found the perfect young co-star in Rohan Chand. It’s a nice change of pace for the young actor, whose previous credits include such dramatic projects as Lone Survivor and Showtime’s Homeland. He shows off a nice sense of humor and even proves he can go toe-to-toe with Bateman when the rivalry really heats up in the movie’s final act.
Bad Words is one of those rare comedies that remains funny from start to finish. As a director, Bateman avoids letting the movie get away from him. He gets from scene to scene efficiently, rarely trying too hard to fit in one more joke. This results in an 88-minute runtime which is ideal for this type of humor—which is especially impressive, considering the length of some of the words Bateman’s character is asked to spell in this movie.
Bad Words is rated R for “crude and sexual content, language and brief nudity.” With a title like Bad Words, the language bit should not surprise anyone. Even words that aren’t necessarily “bad” are ordered in sentences that are crude enough to push the rating to a deserved R even without the sexual content and nudity.
Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Bad Words.