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Bad Words (Blu-ray Review)

9 Jul, 2014 By: John Latchem

Box Office $7.78 million
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray
Rated 'R' for crude and sexual content, language and brief nudity
Stars Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Rohan Chand, Philip Baker Hall, Ben Falcone, Allison Janney.

Blending the zany premise of Billy Madison with the dark wit of Bad Santa, Bad Words is a subversively funny send-up of the national spelling bee.

Jason Bateman makes his directorial debut and stars as Guy Trilby, a 40-year-old man who decides to compete in the spelling bee after discovering a loophole that lets him enter despite being three decades older than the other competitors. What sets Bad Words apart is the way it plays the material completely straight. Guy isn't some kid trapped in a man's body needing to grow up. He's pretty much just a huge jerk, willing to cheat and intimidate the other kids in order to win. This naturally upsets the parents of the students he keeps beating, which is the source of some of the film's best gags.

Floating around all this is the reporter (Kathryn Hahn) sponsoring Guy in the competition, and serving as his occasional lover, while following him for a story about his quest. The overriding question, of course, is why Guy is so intent on winning the spelling bee, the answer to which frames the second half of the film.

Bateman is a natural choice to play Guy, a role that allows him to push back a bit against the typical clean family type characters for which he's best known. He also shares a winning chemistry with plucky child actor Rohan Chand, who plays a contestant who befriends Guy.

As a director, Bateman's style is quirky but unobtrusive, though it's clear he's experimenting with camera angles and editing techniques to give the film a visual distinctiveness that sets it apart from other films in the genre.

Bateman discusses his first outing as a director in a solo commentary track, in which he really lets viewers inside his head as he reveals how he re-worked the script, which parts of the movie he thinks work better than others, and which parts he would have shot differently in hindsight.

The Blu-ray also includes a short behind-the-scenes featurette and a batch of deleted scenes that are mostly just jokes snipped from scenes that ended up in the movie.


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