Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 03/28/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Jason Bateman is taking a calculated risk with the comedy Bad Words when you consider it shares a certain quality with his last screen comedy, the consistently unpleasant Identity Thief.
Both movies feature an obnoxious protagonist.
In Identity Thief, it was Melissa McCarthy in the role of a credit-card fraudster whose sheer awfulness unbalanced the movie's comic intent.
In his self-directed Bad Words, it is Bateman himself who takes up the challenge of getting us onside with a jerk. He is Guy Trilby, a 40-year-old professional proofreader who exploits a loophole in a national children's spelling bee to compete against children. The rules only stipulate that contestants must never have completed the eighth grade. As it happens, Guy didn't.
Vying against the kids, Guy ruthlessly goes for the trophy, even if that means sabotaging the competition by playing disgraceful tricks.
Bateman proves himself worthy of the story's challenge by staying in his sardonic wheelhouse, but also presenting his character as a mystery to be solved. What is driving Guy to such unprecedented levels of deliberate animosity?
That enigma lands in the lap of Jenny Widgeon (Kathryn Hahn), a reporter whose dubious online news organization is sponsoring Guy's competition with the agreement that he'll give Jenny the exclusive story behind his mission to subvert the bee.
As it happens, that's not all he's giving Jenny. Their infrequent sexual assignations show that journalistic integrity is no more sacrosanct than preserving the innocence of children.
On that score, Guy proves himself glibly indifferent when a lonely fellow competitor named Chaitanya (Rohan Chand) makes poignant overtures of friendship to the friendless Guy.
While Guy is not exactly culturally sensitive -- he refers to the Indian kid as "Slumdog" -- he does take the child under his wing for some completely inappropriate adventures, which include employing a prostitute to prove that, yes, all women do have nipples, not just some.
Their relationship would seem to indicate that Guy is not a child-hater. His animosity is more focused on the respectable educators behind the bee itself, whose ranks include a frosty administrator (Allison Janney) and the crusty spelling bee director, Dr. Bowman (Philip Baker Hall).
If the comedy is decidedly tasteless -- and it is -- Bateman does at least deliver the laughs, as star and director, although a somewhat twisted sense of humour should be considered an asset going in.
Offsetting the distress heaped on the children in the movie, Chand redeems things with a consistently sunny presence. His appeal is never mawkish. Presumably Bateman, a former child actor himself, took care to present the juvenile character as something more than just a cute kid.
If Bateman's character runs roughshod over his juvenile competitors, Bateman as director takes care of them, which is what counts.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 28, 2014 D1
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
'Fury' defeats 'Gone Girl' in box-office battle
Sale of Joan Fontaine's house to aid animal group
Juliette Binoche on '1,000 Times Good Night'
'Fury' blasts 'Gone Girl' from top of box office
Thicke celebrates his divorce
War movie paints realistic picture of combat
Foreign-language Oscar hope gets local première at film fest
Fans use the Force in sci-fi remake
'Easy Rider' chopper at auction might be phoney
Veteran stuntmen become directors with 'John Wick'
A heartwarming bromance for odd couple in Iceland
CIA cocaine conspiracy compelling
Keanu kills as John Wick
Latest Sparks adaptation doesn't veer from formula
Photos released from film being shot at CFB Shilo
Dazzling animated story turns dark into glorious light
Police: Body found near river could be actress
New film tells Holocaust story of Polanski ally
Polanski opens Paris musical based on Tate film
For Rogen, Hilarity charity is serious business
Review: 'White People' is edgy; has memorable cast
'Modern Family' actress Elizabeth Pena dies at 55
Warner/DC superheroes suiting up for big screen
New on DVD VOD
Web of wonder and woe
Pitt comfortable with oldest son seeing 'Fury'
Neil Patrick Harris says he'll host Oscars in 2015
'Citizen Marc' doc examines the Prince of Pot
Review: Michael Keaton soars in bracing 'Birdman'
William H. Macy on directing 'Rudderless'
College to pay writer $26,000 for rescinded invite
Review: 'Book of Life' celebrates death
New pics from Manitoba filming of war movie Hyena Road
Saldana, Luna talk Day of the Dead, 'Book of Life'
Bruce McCulloch starts a riot in new memoir
Review: 'Fury' a barrage of heavy-handedness
Answering the 'Birdman' signal, Keaton soars again