Antidisestablishmentarianism. Floccinaucinihilipilification. Immunoelectrophoresis.
In the right context, any word can be funny.
Jason Bateman makes his directorial debut and also stars in Bad Words, the latest film to open up the dictionary on vulgarity and hit every point from ass to zanky.
Bringing to life the 40-year-old antihero Guy Trilby, Bateman enrolls in a national middle school spelling bee, the Golden Quill, in an attempt to settle unresolved personal issues. Taking advantage of a loophole in the rules that permits him to compete since he never passed the eighth grade, Bateman sets out to crush some nerds’ dreams like a bully crushing glasses.
Bateman is sponsored in his quest by Jenny Widgeon (Kathryn Hahn), a reporter looking for the scoop on what would possess a middle-aged man to act like such a child. Much to Hahn’s chagrin, Bateman’s as kind to her as he is the pre-pubescent linguists whose dreams he’s shattering.
And shatter them he does. With no form of trash talk or sabotage too low, Bateman traumatizes his opponents so badly that you’d call child protective services for their characters if only you could stop laughing long enough to dial your phone. That is, until he bonds with an unlikely competitor.
Starring opposite of Bateman, and holding his comedic own, is Rohan Chand as Chaitanya Chopra. Affectionately referred to by Bateman as “Slumdog,” the bright, friendless, and endearing Chand soon cracks Bateman’s shell of antipathy as the two provide a mutual friendship that was lacking. Along the way, there are more euphemisms, profanity, and head-scratching, gut-busting vulgarity than you can shake a blown-out sweat sock at. (Trust me, that sweat sock shouldn’t be shaken at anything.)
With supporting roles that include Philip Baker Hall as Dr. Bowman, head of the prestigious Golden Quill, and Allison Janney (director of the bee), Bad Words provides an anything-but-sugarcoated story with a somewhat predictable plot. But, I go to the movies for the purpose of entertainment, and for an hour and a half I was thoroughly entertained. There’s something about a perfectly constructed vulgarity that’s like music to my ears.
Lalochezia is the term for the emotional relief that is gained by using indecent or vulgar language. With that in mind, Bad Words provides a great “therapy” session.