Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 29 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Crude and Sexual Content, Language and brief Nudity
Directed by: Jason Bateman
Written by: Andrew Dodge
Starring: Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Rohan Chand, Philip Baker Hall & Allison Janney
BAD WORDS most definitely lives up to its title. This profane, raunchy, and very R-rated comedy also happens to be Jason Bateman’s directorial debut. Pulling double duty, Bateman delivers probably the best performance of his entire career. As far as the ridiculous premise goes, the film is frequently funny. There are flaws that manifest themselves in the sheer predictability of the plot. Putting the familiar formula aside, this is a good time at the movie theater with some huge laughs to be hard and what more could you expect from a comedy?
Guy Trilby is a foul-mouthed, rude and crude loser. He recently found a loophole in spelling bee and has exploited it to compete in the annual Golden Quill tournament. Sponsored by an awkward reporter, 40-year-old Guy is a man on a mission to win this spelling bee tournament against the much younger competitors. This is all being accomplished to the anger of the spelling bee directors, the outrage of parents, and the complete humiliation of the children around him. Along his way, Guy befriends an awkward young boy and shows him the more wild side of life.
Jason Bateman usually plays the straight-man in comedies. He’s the normal guy while all the crazy stuff spews out around him. This has been his typecast character since ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. It’s out of the ordinary to see him play the conniving source of laughs (though THE CHANGE-UP might be an exception). He does the job so well in BAD WORDS that I wish I saw him in more roles as the jerk. Most of the child actors aren’t given much to do, other than to appear for a sick joke at their expense. Rohan Chand is the only real kid character, but he makes for a competent sidekick to Bateman’s crass Guy.
The real faults of BAD WORDS come the sheer predictable nature of the film. Rest assured, there are some big laughs that come throughout the whole film (some hysterical moments in the final round of the tournament as well). The way everything plays out isn’t too hard to guess. I did enjoy watching the unconventional relationship between Jason Bateman and Kathryn Hahn that provided some huge laughs (one running gag in their sexual encounters is nothing short of brilliant). The eventual reveal of Guy’s reason to enter the spelling bee is a doozy and lead to a rather neat moment to close the film out on. Everything involving the “crass adults takes naïve child under their wing” routine has been seen before. It’s enjoyable enough here, but you know exactly where it’s going from the moment it starts.
BAD WORDS reminded me a bit of 2011’s BAD TEACHER. Besides the obvious relation of both films having BAD in the title, the plots revolve around bitter adults being cruel to kids for the viewer’s amusement. Both protagonists also show a subtle sweet streak that portrays them as troubled people with a good heart hiding under their tough exterior. BAD WORDS is a lot of fun, but its main downfall comes in the mostly predictable nature of the story. This is an enjoyable romp for those who aren’t easily offended by curse words or sex jokes. Just don’t expect anything great or special. If you walk in expecting an enjoyable comedy that provides some crude laughs and a lot of swearing, then you should walk away quite pleased.