Jason Bateman’s directorial debut features a man with little shame or boundaries seeking whatever catharsis he can find. The actor-turned-director stars as Guy Trilby, a 40 year old high school dropout who enters a spelling bee by exploiting a loophole in the rules.
Trilby’s monologue towards the beginning of Bad Words notes that he, “is not very good at … thinking things through,” suggesting that he is aware of his problems, yet spends most of the film uninterested in bettering himself. Over the course of the story, Trilby befriends fellow competitor Chaitanya Chopra, a 10 year old boy with an over-bearing father. Andrew Dodge’s script successfully plays most of the ensuring shocking moments for laughs as critics frequently compared Bad Words to 2003’s Bad Santa. Both films follow utterly reprehensible leads as they either shatter the dreams of young children or introduce them to adult situations much too early. Opinions have varied as to which story was better, though Bad Words has still enjoyed a positive reception. Indiewire’s Eric Kohn had the harshest criticism, stating that the second half of Bad Words attempted to cram too much development and backstory for Guy into too little time. Nevertheless, reception to Bad Words was positive enough to get Focus Features to pick the film up for distribution.
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