You’ll get more than just bad words from Jason Bateman in this callous dark comedy

Forty year old Guy Trilby must win a spelling bee. Guy Trilby is played by Jason Bateman. That’s Bad Words. Really. That’s all of it.

Written by cruel newcomer Andrew Dodge while directed by and starring Bateman, Bad Words is a film of non-purpose. Rather, it has a purpose – yanking laughs from its viewers – but everything else appears inconsequential. Bateman’s film is even inconsiderate of logic, which is good. Logic wouldn’t allow Trilby to exist.

Trilby’s blackened soul is that of a narcissistic and vindictive brute. His entry into a spelling bee for eight graders (it’s a rule loophole) ignites a flurry of gaseous expulsions toward the idea of political correctness, whether children are involved or otherwise. Bad Words is not fair to anyone, least of all to kids.

Call this feature crude or offensive. All you’ll receive in return is a brisk middle finger or a lobster snapped to someone’s testicles. Bad Words is unquestionably that movie, yet in the whipping trends of repetitious sex comedies or thinly drawn road trip excursions, this is a bold kick to a dark place comedy needed.

While societal liberalism has allowed cinematic vomit and peeping tom penises to cast a gaze into the lens, lashing out at a middle age woman’s sexuality with a ten year old absorbing the conversation is remarkably brave. Young Rohan Chand, a rival contestant and impromptu companion for Trilby, undoubtedly exhibits an expanded vocabulary post-production. Actually, so will much of the audience.

It is a shame Bad Words offers slender purpose for these vile shenanigans, building Trilby with a hackneyed past meant to infuse purpose to his unorthodox life direction. Kathryn Hahn sticks it out as a frustrated (if satisfied) reporter trying to pull Trilby’s story, ultimately serving as an expository extraction device with mild depth of her own.

This is Bateman’s movie. No one else would or want to (at least outwardly) slink through Trilby’s mindset. If anything, Bad Words is distinctive for entering existence under a major studio’s label, and hitting timing marks with the internal sincerity comedy requires; this film means what it says. But, Bad Words cannot overcome its frivolous existence and choppy excuse for one-off cruelty, even if it pulls on laughs. Even under 90-minutes, Bad Words turns limp through its unhinged construction, swinging into boredom before hitting awkward belly laughs.

Movie ★★★☆☆ 

Medium shot scores with detail @ 3:11

Digital builds the visual facade of this entry which turns more sepia than some silents. Color grading washes away primaries and vividness for dour mood setting. Bad Words pushes monochrome; the idea of direct flesh tones is eviscerated. Most of this film IS composed of flesh tones.

Direction takes a turn when attempting to invoke a broadcast feel, and considering length, this is a significant portion of Bad Words. These scenes strike with red carpeting and heavy stage lights, but also shared problems with live television. Noise slips into dark corners, black levels miss their peak, and a rather vicious layer of edge enhancement has been applied. Sharpening will introduce mild flicker and shimmering during camera pans.

Yet, none of those appear to be faults levied toward Universal’s encoding or transfer work. They’re all within the source. This feature has to overcome that one obstacle before otherwise proving sufficient to reproduce the technical acuity expected of modern features. Facial detail in close is sharp, exteriors are clean, and resolution is bold enough to construct striking images. Cinematography is not the type to wander and stays stout in keeping images away from clutter.

Bad Words could probably use a boost in its black levels. They appear marginally faded as a result of the dimming color work. Contrast is not much to speak of either. The rest of this slate holds though with a minimally appealing facade.

Video ★★★★☆ 

Coupled with DTS-HD or not, this is not the type of competition film to post results of a crowd cheering or fill an exhibition hall. Much of Bad Words positions crowd murmurs in the rears and stereos. It’s minor.

Kids will recite their spelling cues and the speakers being utilized will carry voices through the miniscule school lobby. There is something to work with, even if the effect is barely notable. Bad Words carries almost all of its words, good or bad, through the center. It would be unexpected to hear much else from a low budget comedy.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Six minutes of deleted scenes are followed by a 10-minute featurette, The Minds and Mouths of Bad Words. The latter is actually worth a watch, and is open about the forceful nature of its humor. Finally, Bateman takes the mic for a solo commentary.

Extras ★★★☆☆ 


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.