"Bad Words" is described by its studio Focus Features as a "subversive comedy". It should really be labeled as sub-human. I don't remember the last time I was so angry about a movie.
First of all, the premise --- a 40-year-old, Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) who ferrets out a loophole so he can participate in local spelling bees with the goal of winning The Golden Quill national competition --- is utterly ludicrous. It doesn't matter what drives him to such an absurd end, because his motivation is totally ridiculous, too.
Guy is squired around from bee to bee by reporter Jenny Widgeon (Kathryn Hahn), who has the "exclusive" on his story --- but, seriously, who cares? "Bad Words" is moronic and detestable from beginning to end. And poor Jenny has her own set of problems. She doesn't like being looked at during sex. What this has to do with anything is beyond me. And, it's not funny!
The most puzzling aspect of "Bad Words" is Guy's need to bully other contestants, especially the precocious 10-year-old, Chaitanya (Rohan Chand). It becomes obvious rather early on that Guy is actually unbeatable. Jenny refers to a photographic memory --- whether or not that's true is never confirmed. But still, the racial slurs and foul language spewing from Guy are non-stop. Acerbic doesn't begin to describe this angry man.
Why does this bother me? Because he is directing this at children. Yes, "Bad Words" is R-rated, but is that a license to go after kids? And go after them, he does. Guy makes fun of an overweight contestant, tells another that he slept with his mother, showing the boy the under panties he supposedly got from her the night before. The panties really belong to Jenny.
The most egregious scene involves Guy squirting ketchup on the chair of a female contestant, then telling her she's a woman now --- in other words, she got her period. Really --- are there no limits any longer? This caused the poor girl to go running from the stage, thus eliminating another competitor for Guy. Not funny!
Andrew Dodge (who?) is responsible for this reprehensible script. We currently have Adam Sandler turning out one R-rated comedy after another, chock full of gross bathroom humor, but at least he hasn't gone the bullying children route.
Chand is quite adorable as the brainiac child/man --- Guy's biggest threat to winning the whole enchilada. However, like the rest of this inane screenplay, even his role in all of this mess is predictable. He buddies up to Guy so Guy won't want to beat him --- and, gee, guess what happens? This is all after Guy takes Chaitanya out drinking (?), binge-eating and doing wheelies in a parking lot --- after drinking. Guy even "treats" Chiatanya to his first look at breasts, courtesy of an obese hooker. Wow --- how terribly NOT funny!
Now let's discuss racial stereotyping. The principle white kids in the contest --- the boy in the chair and the girl with the period --- are overweight. The "smart" kids are Indian and Asian. There is a smattering of African-American participants, but the prize here goes to the big-bosomed prostitute who happens to be African-American. Offensive doesn't even begin to describe Dodge's blatant typecasting.
NOTHING in "Bad Words" is funny --- NOTHING! I realize Bateman is well loved by a lot of people --- me included. Everyone seems so enthralled that he is playing against character in "Bad Words". That's why people like this trash? When he selects such harmful, repugnant crap for his directorial debut, there is nothing more to say.
Opinion: Strong Don't Bother!
The tag line for this Jason Bateman-directed comedy wannabe is "the end justifies the mean". Sorry, but I don't find mean-spirited films all that entertaining. Steve Carell and Jim Carrey tried it last year in "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" and it was a megaflop. Unfortunately, "Bad Words" will probably finds its audience, just as Adam Sandler films manage to do the same.
This movie is reprehensible because it sends the message that demeaning others, particularly children, is okay if it gets you to where you want to be. If you read our reviews in order, you already know what Jeanne thinks of this script. Nevertheless, I will list my own reasons for not liking its tenor, although I suspect she and I will have some redundancies.
To win the national spelling bee he has entered, Guy Trilby (Bateman) will do what it takes to narrow the field, including intimidating the other contestants. Trilby mocks an overweight boy by telling him his chair "said" he was too heavy. A young female contestant leaves the competition because she's convinced by Trilby that an "accident" with her period, that never actually happened, will be too embarrassing to stand at the microphone. Trilby hands over used panties to another boy, claiming they belonged to his mother.
If I were of Indian descent, I would be highly offended with this material. Bateman's child co-star, Rohan Chand, plays another contestant named Chaitanya Chopra. The kid is not a very good actor, which only adds to the movie's irritability. At one point, Trilby calls him "Slumdog", and when the boy tries to be friends on a plane, Trilby tells him to turn around, and "tell the captain your bag is ticking". Since when did making light of terrorism become fodder for humor?
In another scene, the filmmakers --- a guy named Andrew Dodge wrote the screenplay, his first, so we have no frame of reference --- couldn't help themselves with bathroom humor by placing a live lobster in a men's room stall. You probably figured out that it latches on to an unsuspecting man's genitals.
You want more? To prove to Chopra that all women have nipples, Trilby has an obese black hooker lift her blouse to reveal her naked, oversized breasts. It's not funny, just --- here's that word again --- demeaning. I guess "Bad Words" is an equal opportunity offender, regardless of your color or creed.
Then there's an inane side plot featuring Kathryn Hahn as Jenny Widgeon, a journalist intent on two things: getting the truth behind Trilby's relentless spelling bee aspirations, and convincing herself she doesn't want to have sex with Trilby, but manages to do so, time and again.
By the time the movie plods to an end, we find out Trilby's motive, which in itself is not very compelling. And an attempt at poignancy, with Trilby making amends with Chopra, is too little, far too late.
Jason Bateman is a gifted comedic actor, but when a script is over-the-top abhorrent, I find no humor in it. The only thing I found amusing was the inclusion of one word in the competition. Can you spell antidisestablishmentarianism?
Opinion: Don't Bother!