Actor Jason Bateman has made a fortune playing nice guys who get wrapped up in craziness - his newest release Bad Words sees him move to the director's chair to craft a crass and ugly spelling bee comedy that fails to hold our attention.
The film's best scenes are those involving Guy playing offensive tricks on unsuspecting kids (the ketchup in the girl's seat, the gift of spent panties to a boy). But at its heart, Bad Words is an ugly film that seems to make no pretense about its intentions. Bateman and Writer Andrew Dodge craft an acidic picture where no one is really worthy of our time; Chand is cute and should do well in future films, but even he's been manipulated by Dad in an effort to give him a chance against Guy. Hahn's personality comes out only when Bateman says so, which does include a couple of funny intercourse scenes where she demands that Guy not look at her while giving her the business. But as Guy's real intentions emerge, things get a little...weird. Soon, it's a revenge tale, centered around destroying the esteemed spelling bee, all because a daddy left his boy and mommy. When that complicated history arrives - crammed into too short a timeline - we can't decide who's more reprehensible, and that's a problem. Sure, Bateman butters the comedy bread with thick strokes, but we don't feel any better about its disconnected ending, nor do we ever empathize with Guy's motives.
Bad Words is Rated R for crude and sexual content, language and brief nudity and has a runtime of 88 minutes.
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