Movie Review - Bad Words

Jason Bateman in "Bad Words"
I don't know if there's any connection, but this movie seems to be in the same franchise as the films Bad Santa starring Billy Bob Thornton and Bad Teacher starring Cameron Diaz, as well as the upcoming TV series Bad Judge starring Kate Walsh. The difference being that the other movies in this franchise had various people in professional positions proving that they either don't care about their jobs or they're simply not good at their jobs. Here, the protagonist is the opposite. He does care and he is good at what he's doing. The problem is that he's on the warpath, out for vengeance, and he viciously eviscerates verbally anyone who gets in his way. The majority of the comedy comes from brutal, insult humor.

Jason Bateman stars as Guy Trilby, a 40-year-old man who has forced his way into a spelling bee in Ohio that's for ten to twelve-year-old children or those in middle school. He's able to find a legal loophole that allows him to participate, much to everyone's chagrin. Because he's 40 and a warranty proofreader who's obviously intelligent and well-studied, Guy is able to soar through the spelling bee to the national competitions.

Throughout, he remains a lonely, bitter, big baby who constantly throws tantrums. What tempers him or makes him more tolerable is his relationship with a 10-year-old, spelling bee contestant named Chaitanya Chopra, played by Rohan Chand (Homeland and Lone Survivor). Chaitanya is an annoying little ball of positivity and persistance. This is with purpose and butts nicely against Guy's insolence.

It's funny when Thornton's character in Bad Santa insults or is rude and nasty around children because in that context, the movie can provide contrast or in part satirize the commercialism and materialism that has surrounded or become inherent in the Christmas holiday. Plus, Thornton's character is supremely punished by the end. Bateman's character isn't punished, and it's not to say that a spelling bee isn't ripe for satirizing, but screenwriter Andrew Dodge goes about it in a way that only makes Guy more vile.

Having him actively embarrass and bully children crosses the line. It's okay to attack the parents and expose their intense tactics and over-investment. It's even okay for him to defend himself, but attacking the children for no reason here isn't funny. The point of no return comes when Guy buys a prostitute for Chaitanya and has the prostitute expose her breasts to the boy.

This is not only offensive, but it's also illegal. I'm not familiar with the laws in Ohio or whatever state where they were, but, in general, there are indecent exposure laws in the United States that prevent showing genitals in public or on the street where this scene occurs. The indecent exposure laws include women's breasts.

If a mother is breast-feeding her baby in public and a child happens to walk by, then the mother wouldn't be penalized, but if an adult intentionally reveals any of these body parts with the explicit purpose of sexual titillation, particularly to someone who is underage, which is the purpose here in this movie, then that amounts to child molestation. That's illegal, and when Bateman's character does this, it absolutely killed this movie.

At least, it killed the comedy. If this were a drama, it might be one thing, but I couldn't laugh at blatant child molestation. I tolerated it in Todd Solondz's Happiness, but, again it's only tolerable because the character in question is punished for what he does, which amounts to child molestation. Here, Bateman's character isn't punished.

One Star out of Five.
Rated R for crude and sexual content, language and brief nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 29 mins.


Popular Posts