Premise: Jason Bateman plays out of character (the overworked white-collar dad-type) and goes with his more vulgar personality in his directorial debut about a 40-year-old man who uses a loophole to get his way into a national spelling bee championship for children. CAN YOU SPELL TRUOBALL?! Trubal? Tro-baale? I guess I can’t…
-I like Jason Bateman. I enjoy seeing him in most things. I even like his sister (Family Ties represent!). I was happy that he finally got creative control over a character of his for once, and decided not to typecast himself as Michael Bluth again, because the guy can play “mean-spirited asshole” pretty well.
-I’ve always got to give credit to a child actor when credit is due… The little Indian kid in this movie was really good at playing into the dirty material given to him while consistently retaining the necessary amount of cuteness for the role to work at all.
-Any scene involving Guy (Bateman’s character’s name) screwing over or manipulating a 10-year-old is fantastic. If the whole movie was more focused on Guy’s sadistic antics to win at any cost, it would have been incredible.
-Kathryn Hahn is good as usual.
-There’s a general mystery to Guy’s motivations for doing *anything* in this movie, and they don’t get revealed until the start of the third act. Of course, it’s nothing really all that revealing, and it’s certainly predictable, but at least it wasn’t something dumb like “I OWE MY LOAN SHARK $10,000… OH NO!!” Obviously, I’m also assuming that this non-existent loan shark is played by Paulie Walnuts from The Sopranos, and he wears a bright purple track suit the whole movie. Bad Words is above that, at least. It doesn’t have some outside force generating all the fear and momentum for the character’s motivations. From start to finish, it’s really just about a guy who has a somewhat diabolical plan in mind that he wants to accomplish no matter how much it smudges his reputation.
-I dug the ending.
-I guess it’s hard to fault Bateman for trying to tell a legitimate, working story instead of forcing non-stop jokes down our throats, but I suppose that notion also made the film a lot less comical than it could have been.
-I’m not exactly the expert on feminism around here, but this movie really craps over all the women characters without remorse. From the desperately lonely journalist, to the evil conniving spelling bee director, to the handful of screeching mothers, to the alleyway sex worker named Marzipan (ok, that’s a great hooker name); none of them are anything I would consider all that positive or redeeming.
-The montage of Guy and his sidekick doing bad things was directly stolen from a ton of other movies, right? I know the figure eights in the parking lot scene was pretty much shot-for-shot lifted from Superbad.
-It’s a dark comedy, but could have been much darker.
Final Thoughts: It seems like every year one of these type of movies comes out. The kind of little comedy that wishes it were something more, but by all justification it can’t fit into any other genre than comedy. You know what I’m talking about, right? Adventureland (2009), It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010), Cedar Rapids (2011), Jeff Who Lives At Home (2012), Don Jon (2013). Bad Words is the 2014 entry. That’s not to say that they are necessarily bad films by any means (Adventureland and Cedar Rapids are underrated gems), but they are mostly looked over and forgotten in the years that follow. Despite that, their inability to commit to full comedy doesn’t make them any less entertaining; and frankly, that’s the term I would use to best describe most of those films, including Bad Words: entertaining. It is an entertaining film from start to finish, and I would even recommend it to most people, since it has that niche market for profanely cruel protagonists, yet still exists within a completely broad spectrum of comedy that my mom could still laugh at. But to call Bad Words hilarious, gut-busting, uproarious, rollicking, or mirthful (mirthful? It seems I’ve exhausted my thesaurus) would be quite the stretch.
7.5 out of 10