Bad Words spells G-O-O-D - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Bad Words spells G-O-O-D

Spell this! Jason Bateman doesn’t mind making children cry in “Bad Words.” (Sam Urdank/Focus Features)

2.5 out of 4 stars

Meet Guy Trilby, a loser from Columbus, Ohio, who is on a mission: Win a national spelling bee to get revenge on someone who has no idea its coming.

But he’s 40 – and the spelling bee is for middle schoolers. No problem: The rules say contestants can’t graduate the eighth grade before Feb. 1. Well, Trilby (played by Jason Bateman), never passed the eighth grade, ever, so he’s ready to wreak havoc.

Welcome to “Bad Words,” where Bateman mixes S-E-X, with P-R-O-F-A-N-I-T-Y, R-A-C-I-S-M and C-R-I-M-I-N-A-L-I-T-Y as he tries to spell his way to the top, regardless of how many bee officials and parents he P-I-S-S-E-S off.

Bateman embraces the role of being an “%-&-#-$-&-@-%” – you really didn’t think I’d spell that one out for you, too, did you?

Bateman’s performance is so un-Bateman-like. He’s been Mr. Goody Two-Shoes in his roles in “Identity Thief” and on the TV show “Arrested Development.” But in “Bad Words,” his directorial debut, he’s calling the shots.

He doesn’t mind being V-U-L-G-A-R or C-H-A-U-V-I-N-I-S-T-I-C, when seducing a reporter (Kathryn Hahn), who’s chronicling how he’s bullying his way to spelling supremacy.

Bateman uses his low-key style to deliver lines that no eighth-grader should hear. His great timing makes you laugh, even when the joke is in very poor taste.

Jason Bateman makes his directorial debut in “Bad Words.” (Courtesy of Sam Urdank/Focus Features)

Jason Bateman makes his directorial debut in “Bad Words.” (Sam Urdank/Focus Features)

You shouldn’t giggle when he says words like C-U-R-R-Y H-O-L-E or S-L-U-M-D-O-G to the face of a 10-year-old of Indian descent (Rohan Chand), should you? How about when he uses a condiment to embarrass a girl so badly she quits the bee as tears stream down her cheeks?

But didn’t we already see a movie like this, the one where an adult tries to flex his verbal muscles against kids? Wasn’t that movie spelled “B-I-L-L-Y M-A-D-I-S-O-N?”


The topics may be similar, but Trilby simply says and does things that Adam Sandler’s character doesn’t do, which is why “Bad Words’” gets the letter “R,” not “PG-13.”

At first, Trilby is tough to like, making the movie even tougher to like. But once you learn why Trilby is trying to spell his way to the top, “Bad Words” is really not B-A-D; in fact, it’s good.

Who says a 40-year-old loser who didn’t finish middle school shouldn't compete against eighth graders in a spelling bee? (Courtesy of Focus Features)

Who says a 40-year-old loser who didn’t finish middle school shouldn’t compete against eighth graders in a spelling bee? (Focus Features)


About the author

Jon Gallo

Jon Gallo is an award-winning journalist and editor with 19 years of experience, including stints as a staff writer at The Washington Post and sports editor at The Baltimore Examiner. He also believes the government should declare federal holidays in honor of the following: the Round of 64 of the NCAA men's basketball tournament; the Friday of the Sweet 16; the Monday after the Super Bowl; and of course, the day after the release of the latest Madden NFL video game. Contact the author.

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