Entertainment Entertainment Movies

'Bad Words' review: Michael Bluth: Very angry, pretty funny

**1/2 (out of four)

Any "Arrested Development" fan knows how well Jason Bateman can do resentment. The harder Michael Bluth (Bateman) tries to pretend he doesn't care about his family, the stronger the pull to come back and show them what's what.

In "Bad Words," the actor's directorial debut, Guy (Bateman) has a similar chip on his shoulder. For reasons that slowly become clear throughout the film in an annoyingly textbook-like fashion, the 40-year-old Guy has exploited a loophole to force his way into the national spelling bee that normally includes no one past eighth grade. Technically, he never passed, so he's eligible, and as you'd expect, no one is happy about this. Contestants' parents want him scorned. The bee's head honcho (Allison Janney) assures he won't last. A journalist (Kathryn Hahn) tags along, financing Guy's travels, begging him for his agenda and, occasionally, sleeping with him and screaming, "Do not look at me!" Only 10-year-old competitor Chaitainya (Rohan Chand) wants a friendship with Guy, who responds with profanity and racism. It's almost like this guy watched "Bad Santa" and "Bad Teacher" and modeled his personality accordingly.

Bateman shows a lot of good instincts as a director. Though first-time writer Andrew Dodge's script goes to some extreme places, Bateman keeps the comedy restrained and the tone focused. He's less attuned to the story elements. Cheap voiceover appears throughout the movie; Guy's cruelty and lazy bigotry grow tiresome; many subplots are underplayed to the point of insignificance. Hahn ("Parks and Recreation," "Our Idiot Brother"), ever a valuable supporting player, isn't allowed to give her character a backbone.

Yet it's all about the relationship between Guy and Chaitainya, which is both hilarious and unexpectedly tender. "Bad Words" is a movie about loneliness and kids in need of better parenting, not to mention a ridiculous buddy flick involving an adult who dishes out a vivid verbal takedown of a stranger's vagina and a kid who gets drunk and debates whether all women have nipples. A dark comedy that can make us believe in the friendship between a wounded jerk and a lost child is doing something right. Well, you know what I mean.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U



Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.


Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Man fatally shot after argument over woman at South Loop lounge
    Man fatally shot after argument over woman at South Loop lounge

    An argument over a woman led to one man being killed and another wounded during a shooting inside a South Loop music lounge early Saturday, police said.

  • Oklahoma fraternity's racist chant learned on a cruise
    Oklahoma fraternity's racist chant learned on a cruise

    Members of a University of Oklahoma fraternity apparently learned a racist chant that recently got their chapter disbanded during a national leadership cruise four years ago that was sponsored by the fraternity's national administration, the university's president said Friday.

  • In NYC building collapse, mayor cites 'inappropriately' tapped gas line; 2 missing
    In NYC building collapse, mayor cites 'inappropriately' tapped gas line; 2 missing

    Someone may have improperly tapped a gas line before an explosion that leveled three apartment buildings and injured nearly two dozen people, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday as firefighters soaked the still-smoldering buildings and police searched for at least two missing people.

  • Emanuel uses borrowing to cope with Daley's debt burden
    Emanuel uses borrowing to cope with Daley's debt burden

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel has reduced spending and increased fines, fees and certain taxes to shrink the chronic budget deficits left over from his predecessor, Richard M. Daley.

  • Six Flags Great America's lost attractions
    Six Flags Great America's lost attractions

    Not every ride's the Willard's Whizzer. That iconic coaster debuted in 1976 when Marriott's Great America, now Six Flags Great America, in Gurnee, Ill., first opened. And it's still popular today. But for every Whizzer there's a Tidal Wave, Shockwave or Z-Force, rides existing only in memory.

  • Denim's just getting started
    Denim's just getting started

    Five years ago, denim-on-denim defied all of the dire warnings in the "Undateable" handbook: Instead of evoking John Denver or Britney Spears in her misstyled youth, chambray shirts paired with darker blue jeans became as cool as actor Johnny Depp and street-style heroine Alexa Chung.