A spelling bee loser sets out to exact revenge by finding a loophole and attempting to win as an adult.
Running Time: 1hr 29min
MPAA Rating: R
Content written by Tony Macklin. Originally published on April 3, 2014 on tonymacklin.net.
After seeing Bad Words, I’m trying to set up a swearing bee between Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Bateman.
Louis-Dreyfus (Selina Meyer in HBO’s Veep) and Bateman (Guy Trilby in Bad Words) both take cursing to a vibrant new level. They’re incorrigible, master swearers.
In Bad Words, Guy Trilby (Bateman) competes in a national spelling bee, although he is 40-years old. He has found a loophole in the rules and is on a mission to compete and destroy the young contestants.
Guy is a scalawag, who delivers obscene lines of dialogue with matter-of-fact aplomb.
Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chard), an Indian-American lad from Cleveland, tries to bond with him, but Guy is totally dismissive. The intrepid, ebullient Chaitanya will not be dissuaded as he pursues Guy to be his friend.
The screenplay by Andrew Dodge actually features language. What a concept. And, not all of the multisyllabic words begin “mother-.”
Generally, Dodge offers an intelligence in his language. One lapse is the letter Guy writes, which is read at the end. He writes, “They’re just words.” No, they’re not. And he misuses “hopefully.” But most of the film is nicely literate.
Bateman, in his initial directing stint, uses his cast to great advantage. Especially himself.
The movie only becomes slapstick in a scene which rivals the breakdown of a woman played by Madeline Kahn in What’s Up, Doc? (1972). The addled mother (Rachael Harris) of one of the spellers becomes a wreak. And, in this case, she’s an obscene wreck.
Rohan Chard is wide-eyed and adorable as Chaitanya.
Kathryn Hahn is pleasantly horny as the online journalist who aids Guy. Philip Baker Hall plays the crusty founder of The Golden Quill Spelling Bee. And Allison Janney is the authoritative – and therefore doomed – director of the Bee.
Bad Words could be a nasty concept. Some reviewers want it to be nastier; others want it to be less nasty. Nasty or not, it winds up to be a feel-good movie. Bad Words is an offbeat, sly romp.
It’s a bombardment of spicy words.
Now, Julia and Jason, take your places.