“Bad Words” (2014)
We first meet Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) as he enters a school auditorium that is getting ready for a spelling bee. A nearby parent sees Guy and tries to start up a conversation with him, which Guy very quickly and with the use of profanity, shoots down. We learn very quickly that Guy isn’t here to watch his kid in the competition, he is here to compete in it. Guy has found and is exploiting a loophole in the spelling bee’s rules that say that a competitor cannot enter if he has passed the 8th grade. Apparently Guy dropout out of school before completing it; therefore, he meets all the requirements to compete. And compete he does as Guy as a photographic brain, having memorized every word in the competition. We also soon learn that he isn’t above using every trick in the book to psych out his competitors. When a rather large kid next to him asks him what he is doing up on stage, Guy tells the kid “Your chair called me for help. Help me, he’s so heavy.”
And so begins our adventures into the world of the Golden Quill Spelling Bee competition with the 40 year old copy editor Guy who is determined to win the national competition and he doesn’t care who he steps on to get there. Guy isn’t a likable man, but he treats everyone he meets equally, with disdain and disinterest. Even the reporter (Kathryn Hahn) that is sponsoring him so that he can get into the competition is treated by Guy with contempt. She and everyone else in the spelling bee have no idea why Guy is competing.
This is a raunchy, R rated film in the style of “Bad Santa” (2003) and “Bad Teacher” (2011), especially in the language department as the Bateman character continually spews out profanity laced putdowns, aimed at both the parents and their kids when they get in his way of winning. But Guy may have met his match in Chaitanya (Rohan Chand), an adorable 10 year old boy who is determined to make Guy his friend. No matter what Guy says or does, he can’t shake Chaitanya’s optimism and very soon, Guy starts hanging out with the kid. He becomes sort of a mentor to the kid, showing him how to eat chili cheese fries and play practical jokes. Guy sees a little of himself in Chaitanya and makes it his mission to show the kid that there is more to life than school work and spelling competitions.
First time director Bateman has done a great job casting this film filling it with actors who can make even the smallest scene memorable. Indie vet Rachel Harris is hysterical as a mom of one of the competitors who falls victim to Guy’s many schemes. Allison Janney plays the put upon director of the spelling bee who is determined to defeat Guy’s mission by any means she can. Kathryn Hahn is perfect as the reporter who is determined to breakdown Guy’s resolve and get her story. She plays Kathryn as a woman, who has problems of her own and sees that there is something behind the facade that Guy is putting up to the world.
It’s the chemistry between Bateman and Chand, who plays Chaitanya that makes this film work. They play off each other so well, and Chand is incredibly likable in the role. We instantly see a connection between the two characters and its if they have been friends for years instead of days. Chand holds his own in the comedic scenes with Bateman, showing as good a comedy timing as the vet actor Bateman. Even though Bateman’s character isn’t a great guy, to his credit, he still makes us root for him
The script by Andrew Dodge moves at a quick pace, has some very funny dialogue and is never predictable. Bateman does an admirable job keeping the storyline moving, though I didn’t like how he framed a lot of the film with an overabundance of close ups. But Bateman gets great performances out his cast, especially from Chand. He’s brought us a film that, although it’s quite a down and dirty ride, it’s extremely fun one. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again