Bad Words (2014)



Critic Consensus: Scabrously funny and gleefully amoral, Bad Words boasts one of Jason Bateman's best performances -- and proves he's a talented director in the bargain.

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Jason Bateman makes his feature directorial debut with the subversive comedy Bad Words. Mr. Bateman stars as Guy Trilby, a 40-year-old who finds a loophole in the rules of The Golden Quill national spelling bee and decides to cause trouble by hijacking the competition. Contest officials, outraged parents, and overly ambitious 8th graders are no match for Guy, as he ruthlessly crushes their dreams of victory and fame. As a reporter (Kathryn Hahn of We're the Millers) attempts to discover his true motivation, Guy finds himself forging an unlikely alliance with a competitor: awkward 10-year-old Chaitanya (Rohan Chand of Homeland), who is completely unfazed by Guy's take-no-prisoners approach to life. (c) Focus
R (for crude and sexual content,language and brief nudity)
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Jason Bateman
as Guy Trilby
Kathryn Hahn
as Jenny Widgeon
Rohan Chand
as Chaitanya
Allison Janney
as Dr. Bernice Deagan
Ben Falcone
as Pete Fowler
Rachael Harris
as Eric Tai's Mother
Philip Baker Hall
as Dr. Bowman
Judith Hoag
as Petal Dubois
Beth Grant
as Bedazzled Judge
Steve Witting
as Proctor at Spelling Bee
Gwen Parden
as Brace-Faced Girl
Anjul Nigam
as Siriam Chopra
Allan Miller
as Bald Glasses Judge
Bob Stephenson
as Bill Murhoff
Matthew Zhang
as Braden Aftergood
Madison Hu
as Ling Quan
Michael Patrick McGill
as Beet Red Father
Mychael Bates
as Lobster Man
Greg Cromer
as Jeremy "FBI Agent"
Kimleigh Smith
as Marzipan
Ethan Dizon
as Ricky Irvine
Emily Sarah Carlson
as Joyce Sacks
Jacquie Barnbrook
as Joyce Sacks' Mom
Mak Krikscuin
as Mickey Carlson
Sofia Nam
as Jayleen Song
Lucky Davis
as Leonard Feldman
Terry Shusta
as Cop #1
Connor Kalopsis
as Eric Tai
Amanda Anka
as National Public Television Narrator
Tanner Goad
as Kid #1 on Bike
Gregory Sutton
as Irate Driver
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Critic Reviews for Bad Words

All Critics (125) | Top Critics (38)

I didn't like anything about the movie before discovering what Guy is up to. I actively hated it after I figured out what was actually going on.

Full Review… | April 3, 2014
Top Critic

The laughs in this film are all mean-spirited or just frat-boy gross.

Full Review… | March 28, 2014
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

Almost unrelenting in its takedown both of an American institution and the country's obsession with victories big and small, Bad Words is more misanthropic fantasy than satiric fiction.

Full Review… | March 27, 2014
Toronto Star
Top Critic

Trashy, ribald laughs in the Bad Santa vein, this marks Bateman's directorial debut; it's not much to look at, but at least he has the nerve to push the insolence, profanity, and brutal insult humor to its absolute limits.

Full Review… | March 27, 2014
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

In his directorial debut, Bateman casts himself as a foul-mouthed, racist jerk. It's a stretch for the nice-guy actor, but the role doesn't suit him.

Full Review… | March 23, 2014
Top Critic

While Bad Words is only sporadically funny, Bateman throws himself into the role without shame or ego. The film is also his directing debut, and a very capable one.

Full Review… | March 21, 2014
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Bad Words


Bateman's directorial debut didn't have too much fanfare attached, but that's been the case for the comedic actor, lately. Since Bateman's fame has grown with the cult following of "Arrested Development", and his turns in commercially viable faire like "Horrible Bosses" and "Couples Retreat." Still, he's not the one you go to, to head a giant comedy blockbuster like you would with Rogen, Hill, or the gals from "Bridesmaids." Lately he has been making films that are genuinely dark and grotesque, and sometimes they have a feeling of being an indie without actually being one. The script comes from Andrew Dodge, and was featured on the Hollywood Blacklist of 2011. It's easy to see why when you meet the lead character, Guy, who is the ultimate definition of a curmudgeon. He says horrible things to his reporter comrade Jenny (Hahn), other contestants (who are all children), women, passerby, and even the head of the spelling bee he is competing in. The premise is obviously great for laughs, but the real star of the film is sweet little Rohan Chand as Chaitanya Chopra, a precocious nine year old who just wants to be a friend to this middle aged man , who he is competing against. Between his wide, glassy eyed stare, his squeaky, cute voice, and his adept delivery of each punchline, he is the perfect comedic sidekick to Bateman's antics. Though the dark humor is great, occasionally it feels too forced. Reportedly Bateman and Dodge worked on the screenplay extensively because it sometimes went too far. I can only imagine what that means, since there's already course language, feces being plopped on a hotel clerk's desk, and a child meeting his first prostitute. The question isn't whether this goes too far, or course, but if it does a good job of showing character development and is genuinely funny and it is and does. In the ending scenes I felt something for Guy Trilby, though Bateman did a great job of making him the least likable character of the entire film. This is a troubled little gem of a film, but it is duly enjoyable and educational. You learn about the power of words, the competition involved in spelling bees, and how piteous hateful people truly are. While this film received mixed reviews, I would recommend it to anyone who likes dark, off-color comedies. If nothing else watch for Chopra's performance, which is both the cutest and creepiest example of a child actor latching to the material I have ever seen.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer


Jason Bateman's directorial debut is a surprise, and in a good way, because its the best thing I've seen him in in awhile. And its one of those films that inspire you to spend time actually thinking of ways to verbally decimate the deserving because the film is so good at it. The premise, that of a 40 year old joining a spelling bee and "in it to win it", ultimately is lame-o and doesn't hold thought or water, but the execution is wonderful, as well as the contemplations on our relationships with dear old dad. The piece is entirely politically incorrect. You should know that. Prepare to be offended. But I loved it anyhow. Kathryn Hahn is a stand out! Alison Janney! And Rohan Chand. DON'T LOOK AT ME.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

The end justifies the mean. Good comedic movie! Bad Words is a short, sweet and unexpectedly dark comedy with instances of pure vulgarity and vileness that is at the same time, heartwarming-yes, you read that right. Bateman undoubtedly has a keen eye for comedy. Rude, crude and sometimes completely uncalled for, Bad Words was a pleasant change of pace during TIFF and surely one of the most memorable comedies of the year. An adult, who has been a school dropout, finds a loophole in the regulations and participates in the largest spelling bee in the USA, The Golden Quill. His aim is to take revenge for something done to him in the past.

Manu Gino
Manu Gino

Super Reviewer

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