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Review: Much good to be found in these 'Bad Words'

The misanthrope that Jason Bateman brings to glorious life in Bad Words is an adult version of Derek Taylor, the weasel-like kid he played on the 1980s era sitcom, Silver Spoons.

Jason Bateman stars as a 40-year-old spelling bee contestant in "Bad Words."
Focus Features

He’s a toad. Selfish. Arrogant. However, for some inexplicable reason he’s able to turn on the charm and to make people see beneath the moldy veneer. That’s the story of Guy Trilby, a man who calling a “bastard” might be enough. The absolutely hilarious film opens today (March 28).

As created by Bateman, who also makes his directorial debut with the film, Trilby comes across as beyond redemption. Given what he’s attempting to pull off, how could he be anything but?

Trilby failed to claim a spelling bee championship in the eighth grade and now is on a campaign to win the contest in is Columbus, Ohio school district. The only problem: he’s 40.

Even as he’s told what a scumbag he is for trying to usurp the dreams of some rather intelligent children, Guy marches on. With a reporter in tow (Kathryn Hahn) to document his ascension through the ranks, he wins in Columbus and it’s on to Washington D.C. for the national competition where, if possible, he grows more cutthroat and ambitious, especially when presented with Rohan (Chaitanya Chopra), a competitor who possesses the talent to knock him off.

Add the disdain from the spelling bee’s apoplectic director (Allison Janney) and creator (Phillip Baker Hall) and he’s even more motivated.

But ultimately, circumstances force Trilby to re-examine his motives and whether he wants to completely devolve into the bitter individual that he’s on the verge of becoming.

In some respects what happens – sans a significant plot twist – is utterly predictable, but Bateman handles it with skill, so the audience revels in it with guiltless glee.

He also gets the most from his fellow cast members with Chopra nearly stealing the show as Rohan, a boy being treated as a little man by overzealous parents. The kid, 10, stays in a hotel room by himself and that time allows Trilby time to get in his head. That leads to the duo bonding in rather unique ways.

In those moments, Bateman finds the heart of his film. In his character’s plight he finds the humor, the vulgarity and, ultimately, the fun.

Movie: Bad Words
Director: Jason Bateman
Cast: Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Chaitanya Chopra, Allison Janney and Phillip Baker Hall
Studio: Focus Features
Rated: R for crude and sexual content, language and brief nudity.
Running time: 89 minutes
George’s rating: 3.5-of-5 stars
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, and

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