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Movie Review - 'Bad Words' thriving on pure luck and subtle humor

'Bad Words'


This is no joking matter – For those wondering why I disappear after the Oscars, take a look back at March and the box office. Nothing worth spending my limited free time on, which is why I typically lay low during the third month of the year; essentially pushing the reset button for the New Year. I mean, what have I missed since the last Oscar was handed out on March 2nd? A reboot of “300” by a director not as talented as the former and yet another series in “Divergent” that is hoping to be just as important as “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games” have been. Big deal, but I am back now thanks to “Bad Words;” an independent film a lot of people may not know about, but should considering who is behind it.

Jason Bateman in "Bad Words"
Focus Features

What’s it about? Believe it or not, this entire story revolves around a 40-year-old moving around the country to different spelling bee competitions with one goal. And while we don’t know what Guy Trilby’s (Jason Bateman) true “end game” is right away, it’s still fun to watch him get there as he goes from city to city leaving a trail of tears in his wake. Turns out Guy found a loophole in the rules, allowing a middle-school dropout like himself to compete against young kids who are actually of middle-school age. Alongside Trilby for this quest was Jenny Widgeon (Kathryn Hahn), an online journalist who wanted to see why a guy at Trilby’s age would do such a thing. And that’s really what drove this film throughout; that journey and all the things that went into it, both before and after the payoff which surprisingly wasn’t all that climactic when it was finally dropped in.

Who was in it? When the film is low budget, there’s not going to be some big star studded cast to get your attention. So, you have to either stumble into seeing a film like “Bad Words,” or go based on the guy behind it. For me, it was the latter, as I would have never given this a chance had Jason Bateman not been the producer, director and actor. But, he was and probably gave one of his best performances in recent years. That may sound weird given this is just a low budget comedy, but being able to convey this type of story and maintaining it for 88 minutes is key. He was hilarious and led this cast of unknown’s both in front and behind the camera, showing he might have the chops to be a fairly decent director one day. Granted I’m a fan of his, and possibly a bit biased, but I do think with more opportunities like this, Bateman can reinvent himself all over again as a filmmaker.

Triple threat - Last summer during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter about “Bad Words” and directing, Jason Bateman said “I told my lit agent; please don’t wait for me to have an opening in my acting schedule to pursue the directing stuff. Understand that I'm only acting to create the kind of relevance or capital necessary to get a directing job. It’s really the only reason I’ve been acting for the last 20 years. So, when the community is ready to support me as a director, send me some scripts.” Next thing Bateman knew, he had three scripts in front of him and was choosing Andrew Dodge’s for this film, which I think worked out well. Because this script allowed Bateman to be himself and tap into that wicked humor otherwise known as black comedy. Not everyone gets this type of humor which tends to make light of an otherwise serious subject matter, but it can be funny and is right in Jason Bateman’s wheelhouse. Sure, it might be uncomfortable, but that’s the point and what made this film work more often than not. That’s a credit to both Bateman and Dodge for putting everyone in the right position to deliver the humor.

Bottom Line – It’s a rare occurrence I see a comedy in the theater, mostly because there’s no real benefit to it. So, when I do it’s for a reason and here it was Jason Bateman. Plain and simple, he is the driving force behind this film which isn’t necessarily something we haven’t seen before, but given how "Bad Words" was written and delivered is very much one to watch on a rainy day.


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