Review: Bad Words


I've never been the best speller. I often to this day find myself getting tripped up on simple words like "believe," "suburb" and "receive" (that "I before E" rule, man!). When I first saw the trailer for Bad Words, it wasn't the premise of a 40-year-old man competing in grade school spelling bees that interested me, though. It was the fact that lead actor and director Jason Bateman was a total jerk in the preview.

Those who know Bateman are probably most familiar with his role as the lovable, slightly arrogant Michael Bluth, oldest brother in the Bluth family on the television series Arrested Development. His role in this film as Guy Trilby is far from Michael Bluth.  

The basic premise for Bad Words is that Trilby is competing in regional grade-school spelling bees. You're not sure why; you think he's doing it just because he can. It was actually hard for me to get into this film because I wasn't sure what Trilby's motives were. He seems to be mean just because he can be, with no sense of direction whatsoever. As the story progresses though, we see more layers to Trilby -- we see why he's the ridiculous jerk that always has something foul to say.

As much as I enjoyed Bateman and all of the jaw-dropping moments in the movie, I must say that it wasn't what I expected. Bateman seems to go a little too far at times, blurring the lines between comedy for laughs vs. comedy for shock value. I found myself wondering why parents would let their children willingly act alongside Bateman in such a crass and degrading manner. Then again, I guess I wouldn't turn down the opportunity should it arise.

Although this isn't Bateman's first time in the director's chair, it is his debut as a feature film director. I'd be curious to see how his future work pans out, particularly films where he's not the lead. Bad Words is a great start to a directing career, but I believe Bateman's work will get better with a little more practice.