Bad Words (2014)
Given the premise, you’d be right to assume that there are many easy laughs when it comes to Bad Words. A grown man (Jason Bateman, making his directing debut) is competing alongside children in a spelling bee, intimidating them, psyching them out, and otherwise being a rude and vulgar human being. Now, besides the fact that being older doesn’t automatically give anyone an edge over in spelling, I worried that too much of the movie would fall upon the patterned setup of Bateman just saying something inappropriate to children. Some of these jokes are funny, most somewhat expected, but the real enjoyment of Bad Words is the buddy relationship formed between Bateman and a young Indian speller (Rohan Chand). The story follows some similar beats from the more scabrously funny Bad Santa. The heart it develops in the second half isn’t quite enough to tie up everything. I applaud the film for finding a happy ending that feels at least in keeping with its tone. As a director, Bateman has a smooth handling with his actors and a sharp overall sense of comic timing, as one would hope. My issue with Bad Words is that it isn’t outrageous enough, relying on the setup or Bateman’s mean insults for oodles of easy laughs. I was entertained with Bad Words but I wish it followed the convictions of its insolent lead character and cared less about making an audience care. It’s a dirty movie that goes soft.
Nate’s Grade: B-