Skip Navigation

Video Reviews

Plugged In Rating
Content Caution
MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Comedy
Cast
Jason Bateman as Guy Trilby; Kathryn Hahn as Jenny Widgeon; Rohan Chand as Chaitainya Chopra; Allison Janney as Dr. Bernice Deagan; Philip Baker Hall as Dr. Bowen
Director
Jason Bateman
Distributor
Focus Features
In Theaters
March 14, 2014
On Video
July 8, 2014
Reviewer
Bob Hoose
Bad Words

Bad Words

Guy Trilby is not a likeable fella. He doesn't deal in common sense. And he couldn't care less what you think of him.

It's a bad combination for a bad movie.

The fact that most parents would (and do) sneer at the idea of a 40-year-old man competing in a kids' spelling bee doesn't faze him in the slightest. And since the rules state that competitors can't have passed the 8th grade, he's quick to point out that he hasn't. This junior high dropout turned proofreader for product warranties may not have a lot going for him, but he's a genius at spelling, and he's determined to win the national bee whether the world likes it or not.

Local reporter Jenny Widgeon thinks there's a story in Guy's efforts. The dude's foulmouthed and nonchalantly offensive, but that'll just add texture to the tale. And once Jenny pries the real reason he's competing out of him, she's sure it'll make for a top-shelf article. Hey, that's why she's even agreed to sponsor his run for the big spelling trophy.

Truthfully though, Guy Trilby doesn't care a whit about Jenny's story. He doesn't care that his participation is febrifacient for the spelling bee officials. Nor is he concerned that everyone at the event questions his honorificabilitudinity. Because he can easily spell both of those sesquipedalian words and, besides, keeping everybody off balance works in his favor. He'll do what he has to to freak out the kids, royally offend the adults and win the prize.

And then he'll get what he really wants: r-e-v-e-n-g-e!

Positive Elements

A young Indian boy named Chaitainya Chopra tries to befriend Guy and is foully rebuffed for his efforts (several times). But eventually the two find some common ground—though their interactions oftentimes head down crude, inappropriate pathways. (How's that for a puny kernel of positivity wrapped up in loads of loathsomeness?) Oh, and Guy eventually realizes that his planned revenge is unnecessary and pulls the punch.

Spiritual Content

Jokes are made about "praying to Mecca" and "slaughtering" someone like a "sacred cow."

Sexual Content

Crude, nasty and noxious sexual quips are aimed at adults and kids alike, ranging from comments about gay and lesbian sex acts to oral sex to child rape to auto-fellatio to accusations of adultery to the size and shape of a mother's aging genitalia.

We see Guy and his girl (Jenny) having sex together on several occasions. These scenes are sometimes played for laughs, usually protracted and designed to be as realistic-looking as possible. (The pair is either partially dressed or covered by a translucent shower curtain.)

While out on the town with Chaitainya, Guy makes arrangements for a very large-breasted prostitute to expose herself to the boy. As the 10-year-old gazes lustfully at the woman, the camera also closely ogles her breasts. Guy buys a pornographic magazine for his young friend, too, and we see naked women in its pages.

Violent Content

Chaitainya hits an elderly man in the face with a chair, leaving a small gash. An angry parent smashes a car window with a folding chair. Guy is kicked in the crotch by a kid.

Crude or Profane Language

More than 20 f-words and about a dozen s-words. Multiple uses of "b‑‑tard," "b‑‑ch," "d‑‑n," "h‑‑‑" and "a‑‑" (all words we've chosen not to spell correctly here). Jesus' and God's names are misused seven or eight times total (with God's getting combined with "d‑‑n" about half the time). Guy is constantly spewing out a steady stream of rude-to-obscene references to male and female body parts. He flips his middle finger on several occasions.

Then, to make matters worse, Guy actively encourages young Chaitainya to follow his foul example. And by picture's end, the kid does just that—spitting out much of the same crude and profane language.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Guy goes into Chaitainya's hotel room and drinks all the booze from his mini-fridge—passing out soon after. He takes Chaitainya on an all-night club romp, passing the boy glasses of booze as he hides under the bar. Guy and Jenny down mixed drinks at a poolside bar. Jenny and a federal agent drink wine. She smokes a cigarette. A boy imagines his mom smoking with a man after sex.

Other Negative Elements

The director of the spelling bee cheats by pulling up extra difficult words to try to eliminate Guy. Guy takes steps to throw the contest. (It's not for himself, though, and that's supposed to counterbalance his dishonest and manipulative actions.) He uses a packet of ketchup to torment a young girl contestant about her menstrual flow. He spits racist humor at Chaitainya, calling him a "slumdog," telling him to "shut your curry hole" and making jokes about him being a terrorist.

After being put in a hotel room without a toilet, Guy plops a plastic bag full of feces on the facility's front counter. Guy and Chaitainya set up a trap in a bathroom that results in a lobster clamping down on and dangling from a man's testicles.

Conclusion

When a comedy wields an obvious double entendre of a title and features a movie poster that's a close-up of someone dropping an f-bomb, well, you get a pretty good idea of what kind of movie it's gonna be. So, let me simply spell out what you've probably already guessed:

Jason Bateman's directorial debut, Bad Words, is yet another raw, misanthropic low-comedy spitball. What Little Miss Sunshine did for adolescent beauty pageants and Bad Santa did for a certain jolly old elf and Jacka‑‑ Presents: Bad Grandpa did for octogenarians, this pic does for kids' spelling bees

There are scant few truly funny moments, with only a few hints surviving long enough to show what kind of goofily endearing movie this could have been if it had studied up on social graces. But … it didn't. And so viewers are left with scene after scene after scene of a young boy being encouraged to romp through cringe-worthy and incredibly inappropriate (developmentally damaging) escapades, and an adult who veers from racist rants to pornographic antics to terrorizing a young girl about her menstrual cycle.

This flick may not be as scary as suffering from defecaloesiophobia or as painful as pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, but it comes close on both counts.

More