Directed by Jason Bateman
Written by Andrew Dodge
In the world of competitive, youth focused spelling bees, you never would expect a 40 year-old man to be a competitor. That is Bad Words. With a loophole in the rule book, Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) goes all out in this vengeful, black comedy. Extremely foul-mouthed, with subversive, sarcastic humor, Bateman's first directorial effort is a success, even if just a minor one. That is alright, in that when everything works, and with Bateman's brilliant timing and delivery it does, you have a comedy that is so politically incorrect and dirty. A comedy I enjoy seeing, and love when nothing is off limits and all is on the table. It was a great start to the South by Southwest Film Festival here in Austin, and a comedy that had a little lesson about friendship and family, but firmly focused on revenge and hilarious, inappropriate laughs.
Guy Tribly, a grown man that did not finish grade school, gets access into the spelling bee as an adult. Revenge is on his mind and he is willing to do whatever it takes to win. A no holds barred, take no prisoners approach. This is a contest where he will do anything, and I mean anything, to win. He has a twisted sense of humor and devilish approach, with deep ulterior motives. Embarrassing little kids, mostly between the ages of 8 and 10, is nothing to him. Trilby is a despicable human being for the most part. No remorse. No kindness. No feelings of charity towards these children. What dark humor ensues.
Trilby imparts the assistance of a news reporter, Jenny (Kathryn Hahn), to research and ensure he can be a competitor and for further reasons. Trilby knows the rules inside-and-out, and knows he cannot me disqualified from the competition for his age, much to the dismay of all of the children's parents. He does not care at all. One of the competitors attempts to befriend him. A young, intelligent boy, Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chand), with odd issues with his family and his intelligence tends for him to be isolated and odd with the cool crowd at school. The smart kid that is shunned by the dorks and jerks. Once at the main spelling bee competition, which is being telecast live for the first time, he has his own room, when his parents are staying at a different hotel. He, and his parents, know Trilby is his main competition, and they have inquisitive methods of their own in an attempt to hold back Trilby.
Bateman has made a wonderful directorial debut. A film that is not for everybody because of the depraved, vulgar humor, that is not politically correct or polite. In an over-obsessed "PC" culture that we live into today, it is refreshing to see a comedy like this, even if it is a guilty pleasure to enjoy it. The man is so disliked in the spelling bee competition by the parents and the children that is hotel room is a mattress on the floor in the custodian closet. No bathroom or shower. Bateman and writer Andrew George have delivered a sinisterly black comedy about competition and revenge, I will not spoil what the revenge part is, but a there is a decent commentary on friendship and family as well. The film can be a little repetitive at times, but the friendship that slowly grows between Trilby and Chopra, as well as the sexual, odd, hilarious relationship between Trilby and Jenny, keep the film flowing when it tends to linger at bit too long on the vulgarity.
Bateman is fantastic, both behind the camera and in front of it. The man gets comedy and knows when and how to use it. He can go off on a sarcastic, hilarious tirade, but never once get over emotional. Deadpan to the finest and his delivery is pitch perfect. Ever since his wonderful turn as Michael Bluth in one of the best comedy shows ever "Arrested Development," he rarely misses a step and is great in everything he is in. Hahn is wonderful as well, and sticks the lines and humor word for word with Bateman. A great combo. I have to give a lot of praise to the ten year-old Rohan Chand. He also hangs perfectly with Bateman and is so sweet and nice, but gets Trilby's subversive humor and matches hi throughout. Trilby never breaks him and it is sweet to see their friendship grow throughout the film. A friend and father figure that Chopra wants, and would like.
I really enjoyed Bad Words. It is not a film for everybody, but one that I thought was deeply hilarious and full of great sarcasm and wit, even though there are some highly uncomfortable scenes. Bateman kills it in every frame as a foul-mouthed, ruthless adult and gets wonderful performances out of the whole cast. Bateman's directorial debut is a hardened, politically incorrect comedy that delivers on every note. Bateman has the talent to become a wonderful director and I cannot wait to see what he has up next. I love a good black comedy and wish there were more of them being released and done with vigorous vulgarity and humor like Jason Bateman's Bad Words.
Photo credit by IMDB.