Jason Bateman is Hollywood's most reliable Everyman. He's usually the nice guy who is surrounded by an army of blithering fools or jerks, and one generally wants him to overcome lazy and stupid obstacles in his way. Arrested Development and Horrible Bosses are prime examples of this. When he is allowed to let loose, his squeaky clean image is left at the door, and we are treated to some pretty amusing stuff. In Bad Words, Bateman is the guy you never wanted to attend your birthday party. He's rude, inappropriate, and angry. It's unlike anything we've seen him do before.
Bateman plays Guy Trilby a middle-aged man who has found a loophole in the rules and competes in spelling bees. He sits on stage with these hopeful, bright-eyed children, and he takes them down. Bateman's presence is quite comical; he's larger but much more relaxed, knowing he is going to take down every tyke who asks for the region of origin of every word. Guy isn't doing this for kicks, though. He has an agenda, and he isn't sharing it with Jenny (Kathryn Hahn), a reporter trying to figure out why Guy is doing what he's doing.
Guy makes it to the national championships, a competition named The Golden Quill. It's officially the closest title to an unpublished Harry Potter book. The Golden Quill is run by Dr. Bernice Deagan, a strict educator that could only be played by Allison Janney. She obviously doesn't approve of Guy's presence, and she tries everything to get him eliminated in the first earlier rounds. The only person who doesn't blatantly oppose of Guy is fellow competitor Chaitanya Chopra, an 8-year old whose father lets him roam around by himself to "make him his own person." If you put a manboy and an actual boy together, you will get trouble. Chopra is adorable, and his desire for friends is both sweet and kind of heartbreaking. His closest friendship is with the binder he studies with. How can you not love this kid?
Not only do we get Bateman on screen, but this is also his also his directorial debut. He lets himself run wild, and it's so much fun to watch. His chemistry with Hahn is pretty bonkers too (they will be starring together again later this year in This is Where I Leave You). Does it feel a bit slight? Maybe. It barely crosses the 90 minute mark, and I wish there was more of Janney. This is Bateman's show, and it's thoroughly entertaining.