Jason Bateman is captivating as misogynistic, “Guy Trilby”, blessed with an eidetic memory; at forty, has discovered a loophole in spelling bee bylaws and despite convention, or protocol demands entry to a grade school competition. What transpires is a hilarious, often forlorn, entertaining narrative, defying transparency; Guy refuses to be bated by a savvy journalist (Kathryn Hahn), who uses feminine wiles to ply information from the caustic, closeted contestant. Their intimate scenes, devoid of chemistry, should have been discarded; an error in Bateman’s first foray as a director.
“Bad Words” soars with the performance of Rohan Chand as “Chaitanya”, Guy’s ten-year-old rival; starved for friendship, he ignores Guy’s taunts about his Indian heritage (Guy calls him “Slumdog”); his tenacious, infectious warmth and intelligence eventually disarm, intransigent Guy. Their conversations and nocturnal antics imbue the film with ingenuity and humor; erasing the age chasm, it becomes apparent that their synergetic bond was destined.
Totally engrossing are the “bees” and the tricks, some acerbically cruel, Guy employs to eliminate the myriad of finalists; with alacrity and equanimity he spells correctly, words most mortals are incapable of pronouncing. Bateman is masterfully subtle as a disgruntled genius on a mission.
“Bad Words” possibly a misnomer, scores magnificently with the selection of “words” that must be triumphed; “wordsmiths” will salivate at the ones they champion, and chagrined at those they’ve never heard of; Guy fluently excels in conquering verbiage in the realm of “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
Good, “bad” or benign, words unlock the corridors, landscape of the mind; determine philosophies, religions: create, destroy, heal; words, partnered with the soul are the root of civilization.