Bad words from a good man
Can you imagine a less charming figure than a grown man who bullies children, makes brash remarks at them, and who wants nothing more than to defeat them competitively? Probably not, yet somehow in his directorial debut, Jason Bateman (“Arrested Development”, “Horrible Bosses”) makes this character the hilarious hero in “Bad Words”, which hit theatres March 21.
In the most unconventional sense, “Bad Words” is an underdog tale which gets the audience to cheer for the semi-neurotic, yet lovable-loser Guy Trilby, played by Bateman. After becoming a losing contestant in his eighth grade Scripps National Spelling Bee, Guy drops out of school but more than 25 years later, through a loophole in the language of the rules, he re-enters the competition as a 40 year old man. Yes, this is a grown adult competing against children, but Trilby takes it to the nth degree by rubbing it in the children and parent’s faces when he starts winning. What makes Trilby likeable despite his verbally abusive and abrasive attitude towards others is that he has no shame about his goals or how he will go about achieving them. This is an unlikely hero who audiences can’t help but root for even though his words and actions completely go against the status quo of social norms.
Heightening the effect of this offbeat, slapstick comedy is the innocence of fellow bee-competitor, 10 year old Chaitanya Chopra, played by Rohan Chand (“Homeland”, “Lone Survivor”), whom Trilby takes under his wing. Chopra is an awkward boy who doesn’t have much fun or many friends because of the pressure his parents put on him to perform academically, but Bateman’s character makes it part of his mission to befriend the young boy and show him a good time, since Trilby can relate to being the outcast type. In his relationship with Chopra is where Trilby truly wins the audience over and helps them see past his other unadmirable qualities.
As with any dark comedy, “Bad Words” must be given a pass for its quirkiness and lack of verbal tact to be appreciated. It must also be considered a success for Jason Bateman in his first turn at the director’s chair for creating a film that has a healthy balance of shock value and heartwarming redemption.
Brett Montana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.