In his feature-length directorial debut “Bad Words,” Jason Bateman delivers a raunchy and completely over-the-top story of a down and out loser attempting to win at something in his life for perhaps the first time. Although audiences will laugh out loud more than once, the jokes quickly become formulaic, and the result is just another comedy that looks way better in its trailers than it actually is.
Bateman, who also stars in the film, plays Guy Trilby, a grown man who has found a loophole in the rules of the national spelling bee that allow him to compete despite his age. While the story is completely ridiculous and requires a considerable suspension of disbelief to process, Bateman’s comedy continually cashes in on its shock value, stringing together a series of “did he really just say that?” moments, usually involving one of his pre-teen competitors. While this style of comedy provides for some big laughs, the plot is lacking, and audiences will walk away from this film feeling like they just watched an average episode of Family Guy.
One of the more impressive aspects of the film was Bateman’s 10 year-old costar, Rohan Chand. Chand plays Chaitanya Chopra, who has been abandoned by his peers and parents alike and possesses a sense of loneliness that is rivaled only by his spelling talent. He even notes that his best friend is a binder full of words he has memorized that he has named “Todd.” Chopra and Trilby form an odd friendship and go on a series of outrageous adventures that make the comparable man/child friendship in “Bad Santa” seem tame. Trilby gets Chopra drunk, pays a prostitute to show him a pair of breasts for the first time and the two even go on a shoplifting spree.
In terms of acting, the chemistry between Bateman and Chand is awesome. Audiences can tell that both actors are having a ton of fun, and despite the fact that everything happening on screen would net Trilby some serious prison time, it is hilarious in its absurdity.
The friendship between Chopra and Trilby is what makes “Bad Words” watchable. The characters are both extremely lonely, yet differ in that Chopra is not jaded and angry at the world like his older partner in crime. Throughout the film, they learn from each other, and at times the story borders on sentimental, but never for too long.
Despite having some great scenes, the story does leave a bit to be desired. The plot becomes repetitive after the opening scene. Trilby spends the movie talking trash, pranking, and hurling vulgar insults at opponents one quarter his age, enraging parents and teachers alike. This is funny, but it does get stale relatively quickly. Also, the film possesses the sinister quality of revealing many of its funniest part in the trailer, leaving audiences feeling a bit cheated and underwhelmed.
Ultimately, “Bad Words” is an average movie. There are quite a few funny one-liners that will be repeated amongst groups of friends for years to come. Yet nothing about the film is gripping, apart from Chand’s impressive youth to talent ratio. If you have the opportunity to see it at a friend’s house, or if it ever makes its way to Netflix, definitely check it out, but in the end, “Bad Words” simply isn’t worth paying $10 to see in a theater.
ONLY RECOMMENDED IF: You see this movie for free. It’s worth your time, but not for the price of a ticket.