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Bad Words: It’s no “Bad Santa”

Bad Words


Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland

The end justifies the mean.
Image from Focus Features

Markus Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Rated R for crude and sexual content, language and brief nudity

Now playing at Century 20 Oakridge Mall in San Jose, California:

A miscast Jason Bateman stars and also makes his feature directorial debut in “Bad Words”, a comedy that falls into the same category as 2003’s “Bad Santa” (meaning strong language, mostly between adults and children which coincides with very adult situations, such as, paying a prostitute to expose her breasts to an elementary school child or telling a child to “F off” or “to go F themselves” for laughs). It’s just too bad that this particular comedy is not nearly as good of an actual movie as “Bad Santa” was. Sadly even with its welcome raunchy adult sense of humor, “Bad Words” simply doesn’t seem like that fresh of an idea when the initial joke wears thin.

Synopsis: Bateman (maybe the least smarmy looking actor working today) plays (for lack of a better word) an A-Hole who enters into a national Spelling Bee through a loophole which states that as long as he hasn’t passed the 8th grade, he can compete. Although his motivation for making a complete mockery of the Bee is kept a secret for a while, it is humorous watching his crudely quick witted interactions with each child competitor and their parents. I mean, if you’re looking for a movie filled with off-color Asian and Indian jokes, then you’ve found it. Anyway, Bateman befriends an Indian boy played by Rohan Chand and yadda, yadda, yadda, the kid begins to act as A-hole-ish as Bateman and comedy ensues.

On the surface, the real problem with “Bad Words” as a comedy stems from the fact that while Bateman does a rather good job behind the camera and the script isn’t poorly written (I mean the story was still entertaining enough despite its cookie cutter structure) it is front loaded with laughs. That may sound like a good thing, but being that this is front loaded, after the first 45 minutes, once the forced clichéd sentimentality aspect kicks in, the laughs go out the window. In turn, the final act leads itself to the sensation of watching a film limp across the finish line.

There are other aspects which help only to pacify this premise’s potential, such as the two non sequitur sex scenes (at least two) and the fact that Allison Janney, who plays a kind of Sue Sylvester antagonist role to Bateman’s antihero, is wasted here (spoiler alert) after she all but disappears from the movie half way through.

Final Thought: I did laugh, I will not deny it. In fact, I laughed plenty…during the first half. Watching children verbally berated on-screen for laughs is always a devilishly joyful experience whether you want to admit it or not. It’s the back half of “Bad Words” which falls into the same traps many other more remedial comedies succumb to.

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