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'Bad Words' review: Jason Bateman's directorial debut soars on snarky screenplay

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Bad Words


Jason Bateman’s “Bad Words” is nearly as cutthroat as the main character he portrays. It pulls no punches in its brutally hostile humor, even after introducing a ten year-old Indian boy(Rohan Chand) who(mostly) shrugs off Guy Trilby’s matter-of-fact discontent with all human life around him. The viewer is sure to feel guilty(in a good way), though, feeling sorry for the kids that Guy torments while cracking up the whole time he’s doing it.

Bateman portrays Guy Trilby, a 40-year old man who minds the rules. Well, in the case of the middle school spelling bee, he minds them when they point out a clear loophole: there’s no rule that says a contestant has to be of student age. Much to the parents’ chagrin, the spelling bee’s administrators have to let him compete after he threatens to make a scene. It also doesn’t help the school that Guy has a reporter(Kathryn Hahn) who comes to his aid. She’s not particularly a fan of Guy and his ambitions, but she hopes to eventually get his story, and figure out what makes him tick.

But Guy provides very little answers, and doesn’t seem to like talking to anyone. He’s hell-bent on winning The Golden Quill national spelling bee, and has no problem playing mind games with his prepubescent competition. After Chaitanya(Chand) introduces himself on the plane ride to the competition, it’s clear that he has no problem shrugging off Guy’s cantankerous demeanor. For Guy, it also doesn’t hurt that Chaitanya’s staying at the hotel by himself, and his room happens to have a minibar.

“Bad Words” probably isn’t as consistently foul-mouthed as the trailer(or title) would suggest. It’s actually watching how mean Guy can actually be that is the most jaw-dropping. And the most hilarious. Remarkably, this is screenwriter Andrew Dodge’s first effort, but he already shows a true knack for comedic dialogue. Jason Bateman picked a good script for his directorial debut, which is probably the funniest film of 2014 so far. The year is far from over, but this is a lot more comedic promise than the multiplex has seen the past three months. This is one to catch before it makes a quick getaway from the multiplex.