STARRING: Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Philip Baker Hall, Allison Janney, Ben Falcone, Rohan Chand
DIRECTED BY: Jason Bateman
I think if nothing else, Bad Words shows us some strong promise for Jason Bateman as a writer and a director. As an actor, he seems to just be playing a variation of a character he’s played so well before. Someone who is super snarky, and super sarcastic, yet charming and intelligent. I don’t think Bateman plays dumb characters, or quiet characters. His characters work best when given lots of dialogue. That’s something that Bateman has reached a self-realization about, which makes him even smarter having written a film that is so perfect for him.
But as a writer, Bateman came up with a script that’s funny and heartwarming, and probably owes more than it should to films like Bad Santa, where a crude lead character is made more human by a precocious child. As a director, Bateman had no problem with the pacing of the film. It never drags, and it keeps the laughs intact.
His supporting cast, other than child prodigy Rohan Chand, is all pretty obviously supporting. Kathryn Hahn maybe gets a little to do, but everyone is basically there to support Bateman. They all serve as props to make his Guy Trilby look smarter somehow. Rohan is a different prop, and he’s used to make Guy look more human, if only for a brief moment.
Bad Words made me laugh pretty consistently through the whole film. I have a feeling this is an under-the-radar gem that people won’t notice until it hits Netflix or Redbox, which is a shame, because it deserves to be recognized NOW. It’s in the same vein as Bad Santa, but with a little more heart than that film.
Crude adults with small children seems to be a dangerous subcategory for Netflix, but there’s a whole sub-genre of films that’s growing and producing some really funny material. Granted, liking that subcategory might get you put on an FBI watch list, but Bad Words adds to that already growing list. If you’re a fan of Jason Bateman, or that “sub-genre’, then you’ll definitely enjoy Bad Words.
It’s kinda like Bad Santa for a new generation, only without Santa Claus, anal sex, and surprisingly a little less alcohol. In place, it has a little bit more heart, and that’s what makes it truly special.
FINAL GRADE: A