Bad Words | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Bad Words

A mean adult invades a kids' spelling bee in this dark comedy


Misanthropic 40-year-old Guy (Jason Bateman) finds a loophole in a kids' spelling bee, and wins a place in the national finals as the Ohio champ. He's accompanied by his "media sponsor," Jenny (Kathryn Hahn) from Click and Scroll website, and is determined to mow down every kid in his path — by any means necessary. Even his tenuous friendship with young contestant Chaitanya (Rohan Chand) is simply a chance to ruin the child's chances.

There's an overarching mystery of exactly why Guy wants to make a complete ass of himself in order to win a spelling bee, but mostly this film exists to deliver a lot of dark comedy (awkward sex, profane rants, kids being picked on). In that respect, Bad Words, penned by Andrew Dodge and directed by Bateman, owes a debt to Terry Zwigoff's Bad Santa — it's got almost the exact characters and set-up, though Santa is ultimately bleaker. After wallowing in Guy's awfulness, we get an explanation and even some emotional closure. But until then, there are laughs for those who like their comedy on the caustic and intentionally offensive side.

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