Bad Words Review
It can be a curse or a blessing when a actor gets away from the screen and sits in the director's chair. There are some things people are born to do and some things people are not born to do. Tonight, Jason Bateman proved that he could direct a comedy, a wickedly funny comedy at that, entitled "Bad Words." While directing "Bad Words," Bateman gave himself the best performance of his entire career in the process. Did he mean to do that? I am not exactly sure, what I am sure of is that "Bad Words" should be seen by everyone who loves comedy, dark or delirious, slapstick or serious, "Bad Words" is worth checking out.
The premise is quite silly and a bit sociopathic when heard at first ear, but give me a chance to explain. Jason Bateman plays Guy Trilby, a boy who never finished eighth grade, but has grown up into a nobody. Guy has found a loophole in the rules of the National Spelling Bee and has chosen to participate. At first, it seems like Guy is a jerk/loser who is purposefully schooling all the helpless youngsters for a nasty personal fulfillment. It may seem that Guy is running away with the competition and poking fun at all the other competitors. For a good part of the film, that is exactly what it feels like the film is. But as it wears on, there is a very personal reason why Guy is making a mockery of this national contest, a very specific goal he wants to reach.
So the premise is definitely goofy, but what makes it all worthwhile is the glorious work by Bateman. I have always enjoyed Bateman, even when I first saw him in 2007's "Smokin' Aces." I know he had a career before that, but that was my personal discovery of him. His screen-time in that movie was brief, but he made a dent in my memory and became somebody I really looked for. Even if I have not loved every single piece of entertainment he has been apart of since 2007, I have always appreciated his work. Please believe me when I say again that this is the best role of Bateman's career, the personal bar has been set for him and I sure hope he tries to raise it. He gives himself the best material in the whole film and he totally runs with it. He makes us believe in the absurdity of the film's premise. He finds certain charm in a otherwise unlikable role. Plus, he makes all the right decisions as director, and we are certainly better for it.
The rest of the cast is pretty solid too. We have Kathryn Hahn as a reporter representing Guy, we have Allison Janney as the Spelling Bee director trying to disqualify Guy, we have Ben Falcone as the announcer for the televised showing of the bee, and we have Philip Baker Hall as an assistant director for the bee. Everybody does very good work and Bateman is able to squeeze wonderful out of all of them. The real discovery of the film is Rohan Chand as Chaitanya Chopra, a competitor at the spelling bee who tries to befriend Guy. Guy is reluctant at first but sort of befriends Chopra and also becomes the worst role model in the history of movies. This is a great first role for a young actor, full of great material, and Chand does solid work with it. If Chand wants to have a future in acting, I think he more than worthy for the task. Bateman was a child actor, and I am glad he learned some things growing up that helped him milk wonderful performances from children.
The best thing I can say about "Bad Words" was that it was a comedy, and I laughed. I laughed quite a bit actually. There is some real anger to the film's story though, that was quite unexpected yet satisfying at the same time. Some viewers maybe turned off by a film focusing on a creep who torments kids for an hour and a half. But there is much more to the film and it has so much going for it. Jason Bateman has made a striking directorial debut and I hope this is pavement to a long career.
FINAL GRADE: B+