There exists a certain demographic that is anti-Jason Bateman. As far as I’m concerned, those people can screw off. I like the guy. He’s one of the many current comedic actors that have dramatic talent as well. An example of this includes Jonah Hill and James Franco having received Oscar nominations. Bateman’s roles tend to have a nice balance between comedy and drama. Unlike James Franco in 127 Hours, Bateman goes for roles like Juno, Up in the Air, and Hancock. Funny movies, but not necessarily “comedies.” He gets criticized a lot for playing the same the character over and over again in his comedies, and Identity Thief is a testament to that fact, but not anymore. Bad Words is Bateman’s directorial debut, but it’s also the first time ever that he plays a character you will not only love to hate, but at times just straight up hate.
The story follows Guy Trilby (Bateman), who enters a spelling bee consisting of all children by finding a loophole in the system. As could be expected, this enrages most parents and even the man in charge of the bee (played by the always great Philip Baker Hall). During the course of the film, he encounters a young boy (played by a suprisingly great Rohan Chand), is followed around by a reporter (Kathryn Hann), and slowly reveals the reason he is competing in this bee.
The story is actually somewhat inventive. Andrew Dogde’s script is very quick (the film is around 90 minutes) and not very much time is wasted with nonsense. Dodge doesn’t get into back story, so for a while you’re just with Guy as he goes through the bee and you’re left wondering why he’s doing it. Is there a good reason? And even if there is, does it excuse him for being a terrible person? And a terrible person he is. This is easily one of my favorite performances from Jason Bateman. He’s disastrously cruel and some of the things he does are clearly his idea of funny but aren’t really funny at all. But that’s not a flaw of the film. It’s his character. Then there are other times when the comedy is actually comedy. Bateman has some hilariously great scenes and lines woven throughout the movie and his performance is so good. Out of nowhere comes Rohand Chan who offers some excellent chemistry with Jason Bateman. These two just want to have fun, and boy do they. They were so great together on screen and Chan was genuinely hilarious. By the ending of the film, you find out why Guy made a journey to the spelling bee and the reason is simple and effective. It could have been sappy, but Jason Bateman’s direction made it actually work better than it should have.
It isn’t as consistently funny as 22 Jump Street, but Jason Bateman’s directorial debut is one of the better comedies of this year. It’s not a laugh riot, and sometimes it works as a dramatic character piece, but when the comedy hits, it hits. It’s the best Jason Bateman has been in a while, and I found it to be a very fun time.Bad Words (2014) Rated R for crude and sexual content, language, and brief nudity Cast: Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Rohan Chan, Philip Baker Hall Writer: Andrew Dodge Director: Jason Bateman