Jason Bateman, the director. To many, this sounds like a new concept. However, Bateman first took a stab at directing in 1989 while starring on the show “Valerie.” Since then, he’s directed episodes for sitcoms, including his own career rebounding “Arrested Development.” Taking his status to the big screen since the show first left the air, he became a reliable and enjoyable member of Hollywood’s comedy stars. But after years in front of the camera, Bateman finally makes his big-screen debut as a director.
Bateman produces, directs, and stars in “Bad Words.” Bateman is Guy Trilby, a man who exploits a loophole in the rules of a middle school spelling competition. Despite parents of his competition strongly opposed to it, he enters and does everything he can to win. Bankrolled by an online journalist (Kathryn Hahn), Guy aims to conquer a tournament meant for kids, all the while dodging questions as to why. When a precocious boy named Chaitanya refuses to leave him alone, the two unlikely friends path a dysfunctional relationship.
Yes, the film is dark and profane, but like “Bad Santa,” it has a big heart. By balancing the innocence of youth and the scorned protagonist, the film creates an uplifting story of friendship. Both the boy and the man have broken relationships with their fathers and share a great deal of baggage, making the two of them partners.
Bateman takes Andrew Dodge’s script and keeps the tone sharp and frank. The humor mostly comes from the audacity of the dialogue and situations. Though the film will likely be forgotten quickly, this is a film definitely deserving of a cult following. Bateman’s multi-hyphenate execution shines, even more on those other than himself. Kudos for going for the jugular because “Bad Words” succeeds. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
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