Feature

Bad Words

A 40-year-old forces his way into the National Spelling Bee.

Directed by Jason Bateman
(R)

**

One of the many perverse pleasures of this modest black comedy is seeing nice-guy Jason Bateman “play a stone-cold misanthropic SOB,” said Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly. In a film that marks his debut as a director, Bateman stars as a foulmouthed 40-year-old bully who for reasons hard to fathom is exploiting a loophole that allows him to enter and climb toward the finals of the National Spelling Bee. The story “doesn’t ring remotely true,” especially when a reporter played by Kathryn Hahn falls for this “unremittingly obnoxious, racist, sexist, homophobic” monster, said Claudia Puig in USA Today. Rohan Chand, playing a young overachiever who bonds with Bateman’s big bad wolf, proves to be the “only saving grace” of Bateman’s “irritatingly smug” stab at dark humor. Alas, the movie is actually at its best before it takes a late sentimental turn, said Bilge Ebiri in New York magazine. You’ll learn what drove Bateman’s character into the Bee competition, but “you may find yourself yearning for the vulgar nuttiness of earlier scenes,” when Bad Words was “more entertainingly unhinged.”

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