Jason Bateman might have the potty mouth but its Rohan Chand that steals the show.
Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) finds a loophole in the National Spelling Bee rule book that allows him to enter the competition. As Guy sets out to wreck havoc on this prestigious organization, journalist Jenny Widgeon (Kathryn Hahn) sees potential for a groundbreaking story. It doesn’t take long before Guy convinces Jenny to fund this endeavor in return for an exclusive story that will launch her career as a journalist.
I originally saw Bad Words at its World Premiere at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. After TIFF, I never got around to doing a written review and wanted to give the film a second look before I reviewed it. Bad Words got rave reviews at TIFF and was picked up immediately by Focus Features. After its premiere at TIFF, I predicted that SXSW would pick the film to be featured in it’s “Festival Favorites” section of their program. Needless to say, my festival knowledge was on the mark.
Bad Words is Jason Bateman directorial debut and its not a bad start for the actor turned director. While Bad Words isn’t the most remarkable or hilarious film to hit the silver screen, it does have plenty of things going for it that most comedies nowadays don’t. The film reminds me of those classic 80s and 90s buddy comedies that focuses on character development while adding in some crude humor that will appeal to today’s generation.
While many associate Bateman as Derek Taylor from the television series Silver Spoons, I became a huge fan of his after seeing Arrested Development for the first time back in 2003. Bateman is one of those names in Hollywood that has been around for quite some time, but only recently has become a household name. As Guy, Bateman is likable despite of his actions in the film. There were several scenes involving Guy is toying with other contestants. These scenes serve as the film’s funniest moments. I don’t want to spoil any of them, but lets just say Guy plays some pranks that are so inappropriate and wrong that you can’t help but laugh.
While Bateman is the credited as the “star” of the film, I think the ultimate reason to see Bad Words is for 10 year old Rohan Chand. The chemistry between Rohan’s character Chaitanya Chopra and Guy is top notch and is the film’s strongest aspect. Rohan is just so charming and lovable in this film that even if you are someone who doesn’t normally like child actors, you will eat this kid up. There is a fairly long series of scenes where Guy and Chaitanya go out for a night. These scenes are priceless and a ton of fun.
I love Kathryn Hahn but honestly felt like she was very underused in Bad Words. While her character Jenny serves a real purpose to the film, she just isn’t used wisely. Jenny was primarily used for sexual gags that didn’t produce any laughs and felt more like filler than anything else. The scene where Jenny reveals to Guy that she knows why he is trying to destroy the spelling bee feels very anti-climatic. This should have been one of the film’s key moments, but by the time its addressed most of the audience was already aware of Guy’s reasoning. Honestly, there really aren’t any moments when Hahn is on-screen that are memorable and that’s a shame because she is really talented.
Besides the three names above, there are a few other actors in Bad Words like Philip Baker Hall as Dr. Bowman and Allison Janney as Dr. Bernice Deagan. Hall was very underused in the film and simply felt like Bateman was trying to get a notable face to be in his film. Don’t get me wrong, Dr. Bowman was a significant character, but like Kahn I felt anyone could have played that role. As for Janney, her role was small, but served a purpose. The interactions between Guy and her was hilarious as well as her scenes with the contestants parents as they argue with her about Guy being a part of the bee. It should be mentioned that while some actors were not used to there full potential, every character in Bad Words had a reason to be there.
All in all, I think Bad Words is a feel good comedy that serves as solid directorial debut from Jason Bateman. While the constant foul language and outrageous remarks do get a bit stale towards the end, I will admit that they do work for the most part. Even though not every joke serves as a laugh out loud moment, the film will have you smiling consistently throughout. I can only hope that some other filmmaker or Bateman will use Rohan Chand in other projects. That kid was hilarious and made everyone on-screen including Bateman at times look like an amateur. If you are looking for a feel good comedy that pushes the envelope just enough, Bad Words is a solid pick and fun night at the movies.
MovieManMenzel’s final rating for Bad Words is a 7 out of 10.