Film Review – Bad Words (2013)

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Title – Bad Words (2013)

Director – Jason Bateman (feature debut)

Cast – Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Rohan Chand, Philip Baker Hall, Alison Janney

Plot – Grade A arrogant speller Guy Trilby (Bateman) finds himself a participant in child’s spelling bee contest the Golden Quill, much to the behest of the many parents. Guy’s reasoning behind entering the contest and being mean to everyone he speaks to both old and young slowly becomes clear as he makes his way through the contest.

 “Your child is so ugly it’s not even abductable”

Review by Eddie on 25/11/2014

From a teen wolf, a member of the Bluth family and a worker with a very horrible boss, former teen acting prodigy Jason Bateman has made a very commendable career for himself virtually playing the exact same character over and over again, and good on him, if the goings good why not! Taking the next step in his long career, Bateman has now ventured into the cutthroat world of feature length directing with this extremely dark and often downright crass comedy that is an exercise in missed opportunities and self-assuredness.

Bad Words doesn’t fell dissimilar to a dark Coen Brothers comedy or even a Bobcat Goldthwait oddity in that many things that occur throughout and what our main character does is often quite despicable, rude or downright devious. Full props to Bateman who never sugar-coats his role as spelling bee fiend Guy Trilby, a man who takes no prisoners and is equally at home verbally taking down a child as he is an adult, put bluntly, he is a massive twit. Guy is a hard person to really like (perhaps that is a main point of the film?) and it makes it hard to care too much for him and his mysterious goal that drives the story in a fashion that disallows the premise to full thrive.

Seemingly looking to make an un-pc feature length version of the great 2002 doco Spellbound, Bateman has set this depraved journey around the underused and utterly ripe background of spelling contests that provide the film with its greatest comedic moments. Whether it’s Guy being tasked with spelling utterly ridiculous words or his harassment of other contestants, there are these brilliant comedic moments that despite being dark, remain entirely hilarious. Moments outside the spelling bee itself however, bring the film down to the level it sadly stays at the most of its runtime. From Guy’s dalliances with Kathryn Hahn’s reporter Jenny or the weird friendship he starts off with “slumdog” Indian child Chaitanya, it all seems worryingly unfunny and the films eventual reveal for Guy’s journey feels like a fair old cop out.

Many viewers will lap up the depraved laughs of Bateman’s well filmed yet ill-informed dark comedy. With enough insulting one liners to fill up a full swear jar twice over and with some downright insidious situations that Guy willingly partakes in, Bad Words is always intriguing and sometimes hilarious but as a whole it’s a little too evil for its own good and one feels a short film would of suited this tale a lot better than a feature length trek.

2 tomato sauce sachets out of 5

13 responses to “Film Review – Bad Words (2013)

  1. Hi Eddie – Good review as always, but this was one that I loved from start to finish. Guy’s the kind of character we’d all like to be from time to time, and I thought Bateman’s performance was spot on. Not a total success, I agree, but for me, 2/5 is a bit harsh. Still – keep ’em coming!

    • It’s funny man normally I like my comedy dark but here I found myself just hating Guy for the most part. It had some pretty hilarious moments, mainly between guy and his young friend but I didn’t find myself laughing as much as I’d hoped. Cheers for the take man.

  2. I agree with you, after hearing so many good things about this movie I was really let down. It reminded me a lot of ‘Bad Santa’ but if you took out all the good parts. It felt like the script went for the shock value, but they forgot to put in the redeeming parts too.

  3. Good review Eddie. It wasn’t a hilarious movie, but it allowed for Bateman to finally break out of his shell a bit and just let loose. That, to me, was the most pleasant aspect to this whole movie.

  4. Nice review, Eddie-man! Haven’t watched the movie just yet, but, seems like it’s not very appealing given the judgement about Bateman as repeater. I actually missed for Horrible Bosses moment with him, frankly saying.

  5. You’re definitely right about Bateman often repeating the same general role (The Switch, The Change-Up, Arrested Development, etc., although that last one is sort of the original and definitely the best), but I don’t think Bad Words falls in that category. Whereas he’s usually the generally nice, witty, mild-mannered guy who somehow gets pulled in over his head, here he’s a wounded, hard-edged character who has his own plan and he spends the whole film going through with it at all costs.
    I also thought his goal, and the film’s ending, made a lot of sense. Hall’s character, Dr. Bowman, has spent his life making himself into a paragon of virtue and class, and has created this whole spelling bee in his own image. Guy knows firsthand that in some key ways Bowman is a sham who had no problems screwing up the lives of at least two people, and so he sets out to turn his precious contest into a farce. Works for me.
    Also, check out The Kingdom (a movie that’s better than it has any right to be) for a very different, dramatic (!) Bateman performance.
    Anyway, nice review, just a different opinion is all!

  6. I liked this movie a lot (maybe because I was in my own city-wide spelling be 100 years ago :-). I thought Jason Bateman was very good, too. On the other hand, Horrible Bosses 2 was unspeakably bad 😦

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