Bad Words (dir. Jason Bateman)

Posted: July 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

If nothing else, “Bad Words” shows that Jason Bateman has a talent for directing, and can play a very effective antihero.  The problem seems to be in the expectations one has coming into the film.  There has been a mini-genre of sorts involving brash, crude adults who piss of people and flaunt the rules, and the precocious children they team up with.  “Bad Santa”, “Bad Teacher”, and the crappy “Bad News Bears” remake are all entries in this, well, not “new” genre, but one that seems to faithfully pump out one new entry a year to varying results.  “Bad Words”, despite the presence of the obligatory “bad” in the title, is less straight-ahead comedy and thus less funny than the audience may think and/or hope for.  It is a rather melancholy film with a handful of easy laughs, but it speaks more to the general inability of man to truly achieve what they have set out to do in life.  If the film has a message, and I’m not entirely sure it truly does, then it would be that old “best laid plans” cliche.  Whether you’re a child who has planned for a spelling bee, a bitter man who wants a mixture of closure and revenge, or an old man who wants to build a legacy for himself in an institution of his creation, nothing will ever turn out quite the way you want it to.  In fact, what you want may change in the journey there.

Look, this is a pretty disposable film about a 40-year-old genius jerk (becoming a rather cliched stock character in the post-“House, MD” era) who exploits a loophole to enter a children’s spelling bee tournament.  It’s not as funny as that concept might allow, but the film’s not really going for hilarity.  It’s one of the few comedies radiating ennui.  Not from Bateman, who seems to have had a connection with this material enough to direct and star in it, but ennui for life.  If i took anything away from the film, it’s misanthropy and a lobster hanging from a man’s testicles. B-

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