Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) is a 40-year-old proofreader from Columbus, Ohio (bonus points for this). He enters a regional spelling bee with the hopes of making it to the National Championship Spelling Bee. Everyone is shocked that an adult has entered a children’s spelling bee. More than that, the parents, organizers, and other contestants are angry he was able to enter, using a loophole in the organization’s bylaws.
Guy has a photographic memory, making spelling very easy for him. Using his spelling talent, as well as his underhanded dealings with the kids, he easily destroys the competition. On the way to the Golden Quill National Spelling Bee, Guy meets one of his competitors, Chaitanya (Rohan Chand). Not interested in befriending a 10-year-old, or anyone, for that matter, Guy quickly tries to shut him down. Chaitanya won’t go away that easily.
All spelling bee contestants must have a sponsor from a nationally recognized publication. Jenny Widgeon (Katheryn Hahn) is Guy’s sponsor. Jenny is planning to use Guy as a story, which is much easier said than done. The two have a tenuous, complicated relationship.
Dr. Bernice Deagan (Allison Janney). the director of the Golden Quill National Spelling Bee doesn’t appreciate Guy making a mockery of the spelling bee. Along with Dr. Bowman (Philip Baker Hall), she plots to get him out of the spelling bee as quickly as possible. But Guy has a very specific motive and won’t go down without a fight.
Most of Bad Words is Jason Bateman swearing at children. If the movie starred anyone other than Jason Bateman, I would write it off as a cheap ploy. But I love Jason Bateman. He is able to take what could easily have become a one trick pony with another star, and make it hilarious. The interactions between Bateman and Kathryn Hahn are awkward and stressful. And funny. With this duo, it would be hard for it not to be. Allison Janney and Phillip Baker Hall fill their roles well, but they are relatively minor parts in comparison.
Not to be forgotten is young Rohan Chand. As guy’s nemesis, Rohan has the formidable challenge of going toe to toe with a comedic giant. He proves that he is up to the challenge and holds his own. I was really impressed with his performance. I can see him really going places as an actor.
Bad Words is Jason Bateman’s directorial début. He does an excellent job . I mean, who better to direct Jason Bateman, than Jason Bateman? There are times when the story feels like it is trying too hard to pull at the heartstrings or move the story along. Then Jason starts swearing at kids again, deflating the situation. Jason makes very effective use of some slow motion scenes. He only uses it when necessary, not going overboard with it. It punctuates the scenes, giving them a bit more time to sink in. Chaitanya and Guy’s antics, especially, have a bit more
Overall, Bad Words is a very funny movie. There were a few moments that were less than spectacular, but the rest of the movie definitely makes up for it. You’ll be laughing out loud all the way to the final scene, which I found completely satisfying.