BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
MARCH 17, 2014
Believe it or not, first time director and star of “Bad Words”, Jason Bateman, was not the first choice to play the leading role in the film. Explaining in a Q&A following the screening of his film over the weekend, Bateman stated that he approached several other actors for the part and all of them declined rather emphatically after reading the script. All I can say is that their loss is our gain, because this brash, no holds barred comedy was dominated by Bateman. Without his keen ability to turn long-winded insults into verbal masterpieces, leading audiences to applaud his perfect timing and quick-witted, sharp tongue, the film just wouldn’t have resonated as unique as it does. When asked if he was approached by any outraged viewers, Bateman expressed that he had not, while, in our minds, we pictured the screaming parents chasing the fictional Bateman down a flight of stairs, ready for a fight.
“Bad Words” is the directorial debut of Jason Bateman, a feat he’s been striving for over the past twenty years. In the film, he plays Guy Trilby, a 40-year-old man that weasels his way into a children’s spelling bee. For most of the film, you’re not privy to his reasoning, but you know he has one and behind the cursing and general disdain for those around him, you sense that there’s importance in what he’s doing, or so you hope. Following the recent trend of placing antagonists in main character roles, Bateman takes a step away from his nice-guy personas that we’ve come to know him for, specifically his role as Michael Bluth from “Arrested Development”, but even as the antagonist, he remains likable enough to cheer for, yet brash enough to come off like a complete jerk. Whether he’s corrupting the mind of young Chaitanya (Rohan Chand) who is only searching for a friend, or convincing spelling bee contestants that their moms are cheating on their dads or that they’ve just gotten their periods, the dialogue that Bateman spews may be certifiable but it remains completely entertaining and highlights the best portions of the film.
With many critics putting this film down, for its overly vulgar nature and desaturated look, “Bad Words” may not reach uncharted territory, coming well after films like “Bad Santa” of similar content, but with the number of laughs and emotional investments evoked throughout the film, it’s hard to deny the film’s effectiveness. Of all the comedies I can think of over the past year, none have made me laugh more than “Bad Words” and that’s saying something. As many of the audience members present in my screening would attest, you’ll have to see the film twice to catch all the jokes you missed while you were laughing. Rounded out with a humorous supporting cast in Kathryn Hahn and Allison Janney, not to mention one of the cutest little Indian kids you’ll ever see in Rohan Chand, who almost steals the show from Bateman, and “Bad Words” hits its mark, offering a big first step in Bateman’s future as a director. With such a down-to-earth personality and an ability to articulate exactly what goes into his process and why he does what he does, Jason Bateman is not only a spectacular presence on-screen but off-screen as well, proving to be multi-talented in the facets of film and, with hints of his next project starring Nicole Kidman, I look forward to what he can do in his sophomore endeavor.
March 14, 2014
(for crude and sexual content, language and brief nudity)
Tatiana S. Riegel
Philip Baker Hall