April 6, 2014

Movie Review: Bad Words

A comedy about competitive spelling sounds like a good idea, on paper anyway. Sounds like a biting satire waiting to happen and in the hands of a more skilled creative team, that may be what we would get. However, what we have is a pairing of first time writer and first time director, both of whom seem to play it safe, leaving us with a tepid film with few genuine laughs. It seems like material better suited for the likes of Christopher Guest. The film, cleverly titled Bad Words, appears to use Bad Santa as its template with a foul mouthed adult striking up a friendship with an outsider youngster.

Jason Bateman stars as Guy Trimble, a 40-year old man exploiting an omission in the rule book to compete in the national spelling bee, a competition clearly intended for children. Of course, Trimble has his reasons for undergoing this path, which are eventually revealed. The method of this revelation is with an interview being conducted by a reporter, played by Kathryn Hahn, slowly over the course of the competition. She also fills the role of adversarial love interest.

In between rounds of the competition the foul mouthed Guy is targeted for friendship by young Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chand, Lone Survivor, Jack and Jill), a boy who is always studying his words at the expense of all else. The friendless boy is able to cut through Guy's defenses. This relationship leads to a night of drinking, hookers, and petty theft. Stuff that is supposed to make you gasp in delight at the idea of a child being involved in such activities.

Despite the R-rated nature of the comedy, it all feels tame and restrained. It is almost a relic of the past, an old film being revisited. It is not edgy or involving, instead it comes across as stale, a retread, if you will. Sure, it elicited the occasional chuckle and engaged a slight feeling of sentimentality, but it was still more ho-hum predictability as you wait for the hammer to drop, but it never did. It sputters across the finish line with no real conclusion.

One of the annoying elements is how plot threads are introduced and then dropped. A good example of this is Chopra's father and a sneaky stunt they were attempting to pull. Then there is the newspaper story which is never paid off. This is how things go, it comes across as lazy and uninspired. The surface is barely scratched. There is also the occasional voice over that is employed, it felt unnecessary and out of place. It's a shame as the cast is good and Bateman is an actor I like and despite his cinematic missteps is someone I expect more from.

In addition to starring, Jason Bateman makes his directorial debut. Clearly, this is more of a writer's film than a director's but he does a decent job with pacing and timing. Not a challenging debut, but that's all right. The issue lies more with Andrew Dodge's screenplay which seems to derail itself and forget what it wants to do, playing it safe and ultimately failing to deliver any sort of catharsis or story resolution.

Clearly there are worse movies out there than Bad Words, but that is no excuse to give this a pass for a coupe of chuckles when it drops the ball on possibility and delivers a been there, done that experience that has you raving the theater with an overwhelming feeling of meh.

Not Recommended.

Related Posts with Thumbnails


Post a Comment