Jason Bateman makes his directorial debut with Bad Words; an offbeat black comedy, which is raunchy and wrong, yet is able to show an incredible amount of heart.  Bateman stars as Guy Trilby, a 40-year-old middle school dropout who, after finding a loophole in the rules, embarks to win the presigous spelling bee.  The only trouble is, his competition are middle school aged children.  The premise is simple, but Bateman is able to shine as one of the most unlikable characters in cinematic history (other than many a killers/etc.).  Along the way, Trilby is accompanied by by insecure reporter Jenny Widgeon, played hilariously and awkwardly by Kathryn Hahn (Step BrothersAnchorman).  She believes the story of Trilby will make a fantastic story, and is determined to get inside Guy’s head.  Guy however is unwilling to open up to anyone, except for 10 year old Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chand).  The rivalry/friendship between Guy and Chopra is hilarious to see, as Guy shows the young contestant how to have a little fun.  While the actions of Guy are usually absolutely deplorable, by the end of the film there is enough heart that shines through and makes it a sweet story.  As long as your willing to overlook the foul language and actions of one of the worst people you may have ever seen, Bad Words is actually a fairly heartfelt comedy that will leave you laughing at times you know shouldn’t be funny, if you were a “good” person.

Bateman has made a career for himself playing the straight man in everything from successful television shows (Little House on the Prairie, Arested Development) to successful movies (Horrible BossesIdentity Thief).  As well as he does in these roles, it’s the offbeat roles which really seem to stand out.  Playing commentator Pepper Brooks in 2004′s Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, he showed that he is more than a one trick pony, and could turn himself into an almost unrecognizable character, not to mention filling Michael J. Fox’s furry shoes in the teen wolf sequel, cleverly titled Teen Wolf Too.  In Bad Words, he takes it to a whole new level, as you immediately disdain his character, but somehow can’t seem not to laugh.  By the end, you begin to see the motives, and even sympathize with his character, while still never condoning his actions in the spelling bee.

Bad-Words-3With his directorial debut, you can tell Bateman is a fan of classic cinema.  Many of the camera tricks and stylistic choices are done by someone who clearly has a knowledge of film.  From the lens flares to slow motion, Bateman uses things he loves in other films, and successfully brings it all together for a surprisingly well-shot debut.  Along with the aesthetics, the script is equally as sharp.  Written by Andrew Dodge, the screenplay was on 2011′s The Black List, which is a survey put out every year of the best currently un-produced screenplays.  Like many actors Bateman always wanted to direct films, and chose this script as his debut.  Together, he has crafted a well balanced raunchy comedy that does not fit into any specific category.  It’s a unique film that highlights the dark side that Bateman can tap into as an actor.

Bad Words is a film that from beginning to end, you’ll be in tears.  For the first time, Bateman steps behind the camera, and proves that he actually knows what he’s doing.  The relationship between Guy and Jenny is awkward and funny, but the best relationship in the film is between Guy and Chopra.  They are two completely different people, but it’s hilarious to see Guy showing the youngster the ropes on having fun.  At 88 minutes, the film is well-paced with enough story and bad words to make a unique slightly offensive film that will leave you wondering why you rely so much on spell chek, and whether you should’ve laughed as much as you did.

Bad Words starring Jason BatemanAllison JanneyKathryn HahnRohan Chand, and Phillip Baker Hall opens limitedly March 21, 2014 and everywhere March 28, 2014.

About the Author

Peter Towe
Peter Towe
A graduate of UMASS Boston, I have successfully put off getting a "real" job, and continue to watch, produce, review, and obsess over movies. I lived in Boston while I completed my degree, and now live in Chicago trying the improv thing.