Friday, March 21, 2014

Bad Words Movie Review

Jason Bateman directs (and stars in) Focus Features' Bad Words

Contestant 123: Who's Next?

It's hard not to love really, really like Jason Bateman's Bad Words, a black comedy with bad intentions... for about half an hour. After that, this one-trick-pony starts to lose some of its shine, struggling to recapture the shock factor that made it enjoyable to begin with. Equal parts irreverent and vulgar, Bad Words is a guilty pleasure that made me laugh out loud several times before losing me, on its way to a predictable and ultimately unsatisfying conclusion.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: Jason Bateman makes his feature directorial debut with the subversive comedy Bad Words. Mr. Bateman stars as Guy Trilby, a 40-year-old who finds a loophole in the rules of The Golden Quill national spelling bee and decides to cause trouble by hijacking the competition. Contest officials, outraged parents, and overly ambitious 8th graders are no match for Guy, as he ruthlessly crushes their dreams of victory and fame. As a reporter (Kathryn Hahn of We're the Millers) attempts to discover his true motivation, Guy finds himself forging an unlikely alliance with a competitor: awkward 10-year-old Chaitanya (Rohan Chand of Homeland), who is completely unfazed by Guy's take-no-prisoners approach to life.

What’s Best: Bateman performs double duty (triple if you include producing) most ably, trading in his trademark Arrested Development persona for a villain with zero restraint (especially with children.) Guy Trilby is a man on a mission, and nothing is going to stop him. This includes tricking a pint-sized opponent into thinking that Guy and the kid's mom "messed around" the night before (complete with props... Can you say panties?)

Hahn is a blast as reporter Jenny Widgeon, who escorts Guy around the spelling bee circuit with the hope of uncovering the real reason behind Guy's obsession. Bateman & Hahn share a riotous synergy, enhanced by impromptu quickies and intimate pillow such as the latter's 'Don't look at me!' Through it all, Bateman cuts the tension with plainspoken surliness and impunity to flying chairs, insults and other failed attempts at inducing shame.

What’s Not: Once you get over the novelty of Guy's inappropriateness, there's not much to look forward to. Guy and Chaitanya become pals of sorts... parlaying that friendship into a night of debauchery, which includes doing wheelies in a parking lot, freeing lobsters (then hiding one in a public toilet) and paying a hooker $10 to show Chaitanya her tits. By the time they fake a car accident (and Chaitanya's death) you just want it all to stop.

Despite a short runtime of just 88 minutes, the second half of Bad Words grinds to a halt, as Guy's motivation is revealed (in addition to a few other surprises.) An air of sadness engulfs the movie; and it becomes less funny with each passing word that is spelled or misspelled with equal indifference. Writer Andrew Dodge appears to have written a story without any sort of ending.

Best Line: After discovering his hotel room is actually a broom closet, Guy asks the desk clerk, 'Where would the hotel like me to put my piss & shit?' Just wait until you see where he does!

Overall: Bateman is to be commended for directing himself in a completely unselfish manner. He squeezes everything he can out of arguably 30 minutes of material, but eventually falls victim to Dodge's short story. Guy runs out of victims to tease and pick on; and I've yet to meet anyone who finds spelling bees to be even the least bit interesting (including the participants and their parents.) Bateman (and in turn, the movie) is best when Guy is testing his limits, such as "I'm going to bang out a few prayers. Which way is Mecca? and at it's worst when wrestling with feelings, etc.