Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
Oh… 'Bad Words' and its director Jason Bateman… what are we to make of you?  So Jason's my guy, right?  I mean we're the same age, we grew up together… in a way… I mean I watched 'It's Your Move' back in the day and for my money Jason Bateman is the best straight man in the history of cinema and television.  Well, maybe that's just a 'bit' of an overstatement, but nonetheless, Jason is my guy.  So now we have 'Bad Words', Jason Bateman's feature film directorial debut, and it is funny.  And really, really mean.  But of course that's the whole point of the movie.  But just because one 'get's it', doesn't make it any easier to reconcile with it.

Guy Trilby (Bateman) is one really angry dude.  On this day, we see Guy at a spelling bee populated by ten year olds.  He narrates for us, letting us know that he's aware that he's a terrible person who makes terrible life decisions, but whaddayagonnado?  The parents at this bee thinks the forty year old is there to support his kid, but nope, he's there to compete.  Why is this old guy verbally abusing ten year olds and upsetting parents to the point that they look like they want to lynch him?  In time.

Guy's plan is to make it the National Spelling Bee, so he has reporter Jenny (Kathryn Hahn) along who is recording his story and funding this little adventure.  Occasionally, they also have sex.  Not sure why.  Perhaps a woman could explain to me why she or perhaps a fellow sister of hers will lay it down for a dude who is mean, callous, unfeeling, has no redeeming social value that I can see, and isn't all that cute.  I guess.  I'm not sure about that one either.  I guess I'd need help on that too.  Illuminate me ladies.

Guy and Jenny catch a plane to the spelling bee finals, and Guy is soon befriended, against his will, by the impossibly adorable ten year old Chaitanya (Rohan Chand), a boy so cute that it wouldn't surprise me if he was actually a little girl.  During the day, Guy is greatly upsetting the spelling bee
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brass, such its director Dr. Deagan (Allison Janney) and its founder Dr. Bowman (Phillip Baker Hall) by skirting around their rules, in the early evenings he's having really uncomfortable sex with Jenny, but late at night he's having crazy inappropriate and illegal adventures with Chitanya.  Nothing freaky, or at least anything involving man / boy love… but crazy inappropriate. 

But why is Guy doing this?  Why is he so nasty?  Why is he so mean?  Clearly my man is upset at somebody but is destroying the psyche of an eleven year old girl really necessary to achieve this means?  Probably not, but that's Guy Trilby for you. 

As we mentioned, this is Jason Bateman's directorial debut.  Clearly, spending a lifetime in front of the camera, largely in comedies of some sort, we can tell that Jason was paying attention most of the time to what was going on behind the camera.  I'd ask him why he couldn't find a part for his sister Justine, but I'm sure a large portion of Jason's life went along lines of 'Hey Jason… uh… where's your sister?' and he just didn't want to deal with that on this shoot.  What we are saying here is that 'Bad Words' is funny.  Very funny at times.  This is a comedy, the object of a comedy is to make you laugh, and at least in regards to me, at the end of this day, 'Bad Words' was a success.  The movie is also perfect Jason Bateman.  Anyone who has watched Mr. Bateman work over the years knows he has unique style and delivery, a special dryness to his comedic offerings, and the director seemed to completely be in tune with what his star does best. 

But my goodness is this movie mean spirited.  Jason Bateman is an appealing and charming actor, but even he…and all of the sappy endings in the world… can't rescue Guy Trilby.  About halfway through the movie most people will figure out why Guy is doing what he is doing, and Guy even poses the question 'does the means justify the end'?  and the answer to that is 'no, not really'.

Since Guy is some sort of spelling savant, victory was pretty much assured, so mentally abusing ten year olds to get them out of the game probably wasn't necessary and as such it wasn't really funny.  Also along the same vein, plying up on liquor, plying a ten year old up on liquor, shop lifting, then jumping in a car to drive off to parts unknown also isn't really funny.  Showing a ten year old the giant breasts of a prostitute… kind of funny.   I know… it's a movie… I just don't get it.  Actually, I do.  Guy is screwed up, socially deficient, inflicts his pain on everybody else around him.  Some of the stuff he does probably isn't even supposed to be funny.  But the thing is you can only remove yourself from the moment so far.  Drinking, then throwing a kid in a car and driving… that's never going to be funny to me.  I can't remove myself from that and say, 'it's just a movie bro, loosen up'.  No, that's reality.  And not a good one. 

I know, we got all 'heavy' on you.  My apologies.  But hey, 'Bad Words' is funny.  Sometimes, however, we didn't appreciate where the funny was trying to go.
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