Bad Words – 2013

Director Jason Bateman
Starring Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Rohan Chand, Ben Falcone, Philip Baker Hall, Allison Janney
Screenplay by Andrew Dodge

 Black comedy is an all or nothing venture.  You either have to go into it with total disregard or settle for School of Rock territory.  It’s not that the latter category is a loser, it just doesn’t age well. Jason Bateman’s first shot at directing is a sneaky gem. While not the best movie of its kind, Bad Words provides many moments of levity and a few uncomfortable laughs.

As Guy Trilby, Bateman is on a mission to go to the Golden Quill National Spelling Bee. He gets through an early round and onto the next stage with the help of reporter Jenny Widgeon (Hahn). Widgeon is after a story for her help, and the quotes are infrequent at best. They do manage an uncomfortable fraternization, which benefits neither unless feeling odd is a benefit.

On his way to Nationals, he meets Chaitanya (Chand), who valiantly resists Trilby’s rude exterior into a sort of friendship. We discover more about Trilby as the walls erode just a bit. Widgeon gets s0me help from a source in the FBI to glean more information. By the time we reach the faux crisis and into the final round, it’s pretty obvious what is motivating our anti-hero.

Even so, this last round is still quite interesting and more than a little funny. The battle between the last two is as funny as anything since Tin Cup in terms of futility. Part of the success of the story is in the casting of Chand. He is gentle, some what ignorant, but in no way stupid. His character melds nicely with Trilby. The adventures that they share push the edge, but are not unrealistic. Chand is a cute kid.  Here’s hoping he translates into a long career.

There is a good feeling that Bateman manages to make with Dodge’s story, always keeping it interesting while not pandering to sentiment.  It’s really nice to see him change pace from the stoic straight man that he’s played in so many films lately. Good Lord his acting has been boring post-arrested development. Hahn gets a chance to flex her acting muscles too, while not being a complete angel herself. Anyone looking to see comedy that is a little braver and smarter could do worse than Bad Words.

**** out of *****)

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