Jason Bateman: No More Mr. Nice Guy
By Skip Sheffield
Jason Bateman stomps on his Mr. Nice Guy reputation with “Bad Words,” his directorial debut, and grinds it into the dirt.
With his hair shorn in an angry buzz cut, Bateman plays the thoroughly reprehensible Guy Trilbey, a 40-year-old sore loser. How sore? Because he did not win a spelling bee back in the eighth grade, thanks to a convenient loophole he has decided to sabotage the system and compete again as an adult against 12 and 13-year-olds.
“Bad Words” is rated R for the bad words that regularly issue from the lips of Guy Trilbey, who has contempt for just about everybody.
Bateman himself says that the script by Andrew Dodge does for spelling bees what “Bad Santa” did for Christmas.
The problem is it’s pretty much a one-joke idea except for Guy Trilbey’s inappropriate behavior toward everyone. Guy heaps his disdain on the journalist who is following him and likes him well enough that she is seduced by him.
Kathryn Hahn plays the journalist, Jenny Wigeon, who apparently feels bad sex is better than no sex at all.
Guy despises the Golden Quill National Spelling Bee director, Dr. Bernice Deagan, played by Allison Janney in condescending schoolmarm mode.
The biggest heap of contempt and blind hatred is dumped on the spelling bee’s founder Dr. Bowman, played by Philip Baker Hall. It would be a spoiler to reveal why Guy hates Dr. Bowman so strongly, so we’ll say no more.
The only person Guy seems to like, other than himself, is Chaitanya Chopra, a pint-sized, very bright 12-year-old boy of Indian parentage. Chaitanya is played by Rohan Chand, a very appealing young actor with huge brown eyes and a ready smile.
Yep, there is a moral to the story after all, and that what gives this otherwise vulgar movie “redeeming social value.” Yes it is quite funny, but there are as many groans as there are laughs. Jason Bateman is probably better off playing the good guy he seems to be.