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Review: Bad Words

Bad Words
8 10

This review of BAD WORDS originally ran as part of our TIFF 2013 coverage.
PLOT: Guy (Jason Bateman) is a forty-year old high school dropout, who uses a loophole to enter the National Spelling Bee, where he's pitted against ten-year-olds. He uses every dirty trick in the book to beat his child opponents, while followed by a reporter (Kathryn Hahn).

REVIEW: BAD WORD has an awful lot in common with another comedy with the word “bad” in the title. Indeed, it's a heck of a lot like BAD SANTA, with Bateman playing a guy that heck- not even a mother can love. He's an absolute bastard through and through, looking to mentally destroy his young opponents all to win some small victory that should be beneath him, but isn't.

The most important similarity between the two movies us that they're both funny as sh*t. Sure, Bateman's playing an asshole, but that's what makes it hilarious. Bateman's had a hot couple of years, but just as often as he scores in something like ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, he's wasted in movies like THE CHANGE UP and IDENTITY THEFT. Clearly, Bateman knows his own strengths, so it's no surprise that his best movie in years is also one he directed, with this being his feature debut as director (although he's been directing since his time on THE HOGAN FAMILY as a teen heartthrob).

At a lean eighty-eight minutes, BAD WORDS is one of the tightest comedies I've seen in a long time. There's absolutely no flab whatsoever on it, keeping the cynical black comic tone chugging along at a furious clip. Bateman never tries to make himself too likable, even though we get an idea that maybe he's not such a bad guy underneath. Unlike Thorton in BAD SANTA, he's obviously intelligent but wastes himself in something like the spelling bee when he could have probably done anything, rather than piss his life away. As such, he manages to hold on to some degree of sympathy, even though he's probably the kind of guy you'd never want to grab a beer with to say the least.

Good as he is, Bateman more or less lets his pint-sized ten-year old co-star Rohan Chand walk away with the movie as Guy's main competition, a kid named Chaitainya. Relentlessly upbeat and optimistic, he desperately wants to be Guy's friend and treats him like a surrogate father even though he's absolutely the worst role model possible. Bateman and Chand are hilarious together, especially when Bateman takes the kid out on a relentlessly R-rated night of mischief, including strippers and booze. Here Bateman takes obvious delight in shocking his audience and makes this sequence hilarious rather than revolting. The supporting cast is similarly perfect, with Kathryn Hahn bringing a lot to the “love-interest” role, making her an eccentric addition to the film rather than a typical one. Allison Janney and Philip Baker Hall are exceedingly well-cast as the put-upon heads of the spelling bee, looking to (not unreasonably) kick out this middle-aged interloper.

It's no surprise BAD WORDS got a huge deal out of TIFF, being picked up by Focus Features. It's a hard-edged, hard-R comedy, but it's one of the ones that really works. It has the potential to explode if Focus gives it a wide release, and it can totally catch on with anyone who appreciates the kind of humor Bateman excelled at on ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. It's a hilariously dirty film, and probably the best thing Bateman's done on the big screen so far.

Source: JoBlo.com

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