“Bad Words,” the directorial debut of Jason Bateman, is a mean-spirited comedy in the vein of “Bad Santa” or “A Fish Called Wanda.”
It shoves away the slightest hint of political correctness as Bateman’s self-absorbed Guy Trilby, for mysterious reasons, exploits a loophole to compete in the national spelling bee, where he takes on an angel-faced rival named Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chand).
The script, by Andrew Dodge, features scenes of Trilby hurling insults at his fellow spellers and little else. There’s a modicum of sentimentality interspersed within the stream of dry invective but the overall perspective is as misanthrophic as the protagonist.
And that’s the movie’s ultimate problem, even if the world needs more of this sort of uncompromising, frequently funny depiction of your classic repulsive man-child.
There simply isn’t much of a story here. And Bateman the director fails to compensate for the script’s deficiencies. His cut-and-dry direction cycles through a series of verbal slams without any larger prespective.
Trilby is one-dimensional, his motivations shift from vague to ridiculous and the spelling bee milieu, ripe for satire, plays second fiddle to the jerk shtick.
Directed by Jason Bateman
Starring Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Rohan Chand