Guy Trilby, a 40-year old man, is a mean-spirited, foul-mouthed jerk who shows little respect for everyone around him. After finding a loophole in the rules of The National Spelling Bee, Guy joins the event, hijacking the competition and irritating almost everyone along the way. From outraged officials to disgruntled parents, Guy is at center stage of a ton of angst, intent on crushing the dreams of all the other children on his way to victory. As the competition begins, Guy begins to forge an unlikely friendship with one of his competitors, Chaitanya, a 10-year-old boy. Jason Bateman's directorial debut, Bad Words, is a relatively funny film that's crudeness, undermines its more lofty thematic intentions. Guy is far from a likable character, alienating almost everyone who even attempts to connect with venom and foul-mouthed antics. This is an odd role for the likable Bateman but I've always been a sucker for an actor stepping out of his comfort zone. At its core, Bad Words is about the connection between Guy and Chaitanya, two individuals who are more alike than they could imagine. For much of the film, the audience is left in the dark about Guy's true motivation for entering the spelling bee, but unfortunately the revelation towards the end of the film is lacking, setting up a heart-felt conclusion that goes against the snarky, ugliness that made this character's plight so interesting. I understand the film is trying to make a statement about forgiveness and moving forward but the way it gets there doesn't feel very organic. Perhaps the films greatest strength is how it deconstructs our societies desire to win, showing the petty actions of parents and officials alike, doing whatever they can to stop Guy Trilby from winning. These parents use their children as an excuse for their actions, when in actuality most of their venom revolves around their own selfish intentions - the tutoring lessons and time they spent preparing their children in an effort to win. Jason Bateman's Good Words is a low-rent, spelling bee version of Bad Santa, but unfortunately it never fully sticks to its guns, falling a little too far into sentimentality for my liking.
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