At first, it’s a riddle to figure out what actor Jason Bateman would gain from directing a dark comedy and playing the film’s anti-hero. After watching Bad Words, it’s clear to me why the film would be an enticing challenge.
It’s a chance to go against the grain of Bateman’s nice guy image to whom he’s been typecast for multiple times. Not to mention a chance for the actor to not conform and make a feel good vanity project. It’s an opportunity to do something different, and I think it paid off big time for the debuting filmmaker.
Bad Words is a warped flick with an abnormal sense of humour – those are compliments. Screenwriter Andrew Dodge is unapologetic with Bateman’s Guy Trilby, a 40-year-old mean spelling bee competitor who has a hidden agenda and a severe lack of empathy and compassion.
If Dodge or Bateman had let up and made Trilby a smidgen more tolerable by the end of the film, the entire comedy could’ve been ruined. Thankfully, they understand how consistent Bad Words has to be in order to pull off its intentional tastelessness. Because of that, I found myself laughing a lot during Bateman’s film followed by me wondering if I should seek medical help for finding myself so amused with such rotten characters.
Bateman’s directorial debut is a solid stab that promises future potential. Bad Words doesn’t reinvent the wheel as to how filthy black comedies should be made, but it’s successful with this formula and speckles hints of originality throughout. Take how the film looks, for instance. The brownness represents a rustic tone to these classy spelling bees, but also feels as if the mood is being intruded by dinginess.
As much as I laughed during Bad Words, the film treads too closely to 2003’s Bad Santa. Most moviegoers made the connection by the title relation alone, but wait until you see the similarities in the movie. Bateman’s reflective inner monologues are often accompanied by classical music and he’s constantly followed by an innocent but odd child (wiz kid Chaitanya Chopra played by Rohan Chand) who’s father isn’t around for a peculiar reason.
What I truly appreciate about Bad Words is that it gives audiences a conclusion to this story that both suits the comedic ugliness, doesn’t cop out, and is entirely likeable. It gives that final touch of fulfillment before you realize that Bad Words is one of this year’s best comedies so far.