Jason Bateman has become the go to, comedy straight man in Hollywood. Whether he is managing the eccentric Bluth Family in Arrested Development or suffering emotional abuse as Nick in Horrible Bosses, Bateman shines when reacting to the crazy characters around him with normal, yet mocking, responses that leave us giggling. Bateman’s new film marks two firsts for the underrated actor. He not only directs Bad Words, but gets a role reversal playing the surly, foul-mouthed Guy Trilby.
Bad Words reminded me of the raunchy “slacker adult befriends loner kid” movies I grew up with in the 1980s. Bateman plays Guy Trilby, a brilliant, grade school dropout who exploits a loophole allowing him to compete in the National Quill Spelling Bee. Bateman is hilarious as the smug and thoughtless Guy. The elder contestant takes out his younger foes in sick, but laugh out loud fashion. You should totally hate Guy for bullying these kids and the spelling bee community, but Bateman brings his dry charm that makes you root for him. Plus, Guy is an amazing speller, even if he is a jerky 40-year-old ruining these kids’ special moments.
Bateman’s Guy is one narcissistic human being, but that begins to change when he meets a fellow competitor named Chaitanaya Chopra (Rohan Chand). The dynamic between the two bring some of the most inappropriate scenes in Bad Words that will leave you shaking your head with laughter. It’s not just laughs that Bateman and Chand create. Much of the heart that begins to grow in Guy Trilby’s empty chest is created through the sweet, and even sad at times, relationship between Guy and Chaitanaya.
A comedy this black needed some tender moments and Bateman delivers in Bad Words. Guy is a scumbag with a purpose who you end up rooting by the end. Bateman performs well both in front and behind the camera. I guess you learn a few tricks during a lifetime in the Hollywood spotlight. It took almost 3 months, but I finally found something to laugh at in the Dead Zone of movies that didn’t have the word “Lego” in the title. It’s Bateman at his worst giving one of the best performances of his career in Bad Words.
Overall I give Bad Words 3 out of 4 stars.
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