Remember that scene in Billy Madison where Adam Sandler makes fun of a second-grader because she can't spell “couch”? Bad Words is kind of like that, only 90 minutes longer. Jason Bateman plays a 40-year-old named Guy exploiting a loophole in the rules that allows him to enter the prestigious Golden Quill Spelling Bee, much to the chagrin of the organizers and the other contestants’ parents. Not only a preternaturally good speller but also an unabashed prick, Guy spends his downtime ducking the questions of a reporter (Kathryn Hahn) who follows him around and begrudgingly befriending (or, depending on one’s view of it, corrupting) a precocious boy whose hotel room is just a few doors down from his. The interactions between the two are the film’s highlight: Guy’s vulgar cynicism colliding with the kid’s bright-eyed innocence may be low-hanging fruit, but Bateman still does a fine job of picking every ripe piece. The Arrested Development star, who's also making his debut as a director, gets a lot of laughs out of the film's premise but little emotional resonance. We know there’s more to Guy, especially once he starts vaguely alluding to his absentee father, but Bad Words struggles whenever it strays out of its profane comfort zone.
- Running Time:
- Release Date: Tuesday, March 18, 2014
- MPAA Rating: R
- Critic's Score: B-
- Watch the trailer