Still have yet to see any of these spelling bees give the word, “Icup”. You’ll get it.
Spelling bees are usually meant for those kids who study all night and day, learn every word in the dictionary, its meaning, its usage in a sentence, its tense and even its place-of-origin. These kids duke it out in a civilized, calm manner, with hopes in that they’ll get the chance to shine in the spotlight for a bit, get a check and even get a chance to meet some pretty famous people. And hell, they should – they’re kids, they studied long, hard and diligently, so why the ‘eff not? Well, hate to break it to these little kiddies, but 40-year-old Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) thinks differently. Through some loophole he miraculously discovers, Guy is able to forge himself into The Golden Quill Spelling Bee competition where he’s up against fifth and sixth graders, and even allowing his whole story to be told to the mainstream media, in the form of a reporter (Kathryn Hahn). As one could suspect, everybody is downright appalled that somebody this rude, crude and downright evil would actually commit such a reprehensible act, but then again, Guy Trilby is a reprehensible guy, so what do you expect?
Jason Bateman, man. We all know you’re funny and everything, but gosh. How are you still able to surprise us?
Well, it’s quite simple: He’s a genuinely-talented guy that knows how to make any piece of comedy work. Even if it does mean that he works in junk like Identity Thief. Yeah, let’s just move on from that one, shall we?
Anyway, what I am trying to say here is that we all know Jason Bateman for being a lovable, heart-of-gold, dead-panning smart-ass. It’s an act he’s been perfecting for quite some time and personally, I don’t feel as if it is ever getting old. However, it’s surprising just how many times Bateman hasn’t really gone out on a limb and gotten really wacky and nutty with himself. Sure, there was the Change-Up, where he had to play some-odd version of Ryan Reynolds, but it seems to be that only myself and a few others actually saw it, or better yet, even liked it.
But also, that’s why it is so cool to see him behind the director’s chair with this one, because not only does he get to show us a new skill he may have never utilized before, but he also gets to show us that the dude can still be a likable guy, even if he is playing an absolute and total dick. And an absolute, total dick is exactly what Guy Trilby is; however, he’s an entertaining and relatively lovable one at that. Most of why Trilby gets by as a character, is because Bateman is so likable to begin with, that it doesn’t matter if he’s using racist-comments towards everyone around him, or the fact that he’s antagonizing sixth graders just trying to get ahead of a 40-year-old, grown-man in a spelling bee competition. What does matter is if we get to see that there’s anything more to the guy than just that.
And with both Bateman’s acting and directing, we get to see Guy Trilby for all of his faults, his positives and just what makes him downright human. Honestly, he’s not a great guy, but there are brief snippets where we get to see that he can be a kind guy, even if that does entailing him taking a ten-year-old boy out to steal lobsters, get drunk, eat fast-food and see a pair of boobs. I didn’t say he was perfect, dammit! All I said that he tries to do what is right for both him, and this little boy named Chaitanya Chopra, played wonderfully by Rohan Chand. Together, the two have a nice bit of chemistry that works well and really gives the movie that extra amount of depth the material needed to be than just a “Spellbound meets Bad Santa“-flick.
I guess you can credit most of that to Bateman’s directing, his acting, or the script from Andrew Dodge that isn’t perfect, but still gets most of the beats right. It’s funny when it needs to be funny, but in a mean-spirited kind of way that makes you think you shouldn’t be laughing, yet, still can’t help yourself but to do otherwise. Especially once you see Guy terrorizing and getting inside the heads of all these poor, desperate kids. Sure, it’s terrible to watch, but in a good way that only a dark, R-rated comedy can do and that’s why it’s definitely worth seeing, especially if you’re in the mood for a good couple of hearty laughs.
Or, if you just want to hear Michael Bluth make derogatory-comments about Arabs, fat people and girls, among others. Never thought I’d be using that in the same sentence, but like I said before: Jason Bateman can still surprise me, even if it is quite late in his career. True comedian right there, people.
By the end, the movie does begin to get a tad repetitive and obvious, as several plot-twists come to the forefront in a heavy, not-so-subtle way. It’s nice to see people like Philip Baker Hall, Ben Falcone and Allison Janney show up in stuff no matter what the occasion may be, but here, the material doesn’t suit them all that well to begin with, or give them much to do. More so Hall than anybody else, as it seems like Bateman really wanted to draw some drama out of just having him around, however, takes the movie down a whole notch along with him. The only one who can bring it back up, other than him and Chand of course, is Kathryn Hahn who, once again, shows us that she can balance-out humor and heart, without making the constant switches and twitches seem all that jarring. Still see a bright future ahead of this gal, even if she is pushing 40 and late in her career. Then again though, could say the same about Bateman and look where he’s going. Oh, Hollywood and all of your talented, over-40 people!
Consensus: May get too dramatic by the end, but with an assured-direction and lead performance from the always-hilarious Jason Bateman, Bad Words works by balancing out its side-splitting, crude humor, with plenty of heartwarming moments to make you think differently about the material you’re watching, as predictable as it may be.
7.5 / 10 = Rental!!