Director: Jason Bateman
If Bad Words came out 15 years ago and starred Bill Murray, it probably would have been a massive hit. Released today starring (and weirdly, directed by) Jason Bateman, it’ll be a mid-level comedy release probably targeted at a niche market. That’s a bit of a shame since Bateman playing a lovable douchebag torturing a pre-teen is a pretty hilarious sight and a far better use of his talent/time than one of his middle-of-the-road Seth Gordon comedies. The concept is as simple as a middle-aged man finding a loop hole to compete in a spelling bee with kids and destroying them on and off the stage. That’s the hold movie and it does what it says on the box.
The title shoves the flick into the gently vulgar recent string of “bad” comedies like Bad Santa or Bad Teacher. It’s probably closer to the latter movie in quality and laugh count and that’s just enough to squeak by. As a director, Bateman plays things safe but shoots the movie effectively and works well with the cast (especially the perpetually underrated Kathryn Hahn and pint-sized scene stealer Rohan Chand). The film predictably and generically turns sweet n’ heart-warming by the end to justify all the bad behavior. As always, the lesson is never as good as the immorality with these sorts of things. Still, the flick easily hits a high enough laugh count to qualify as a successful comedy and finally gives Bateman a role worthy of his comedic chops. (Phil Brown)
Saturday, September 14, 9:00pm, Ryerson Theatre