If you enjoy swear words being hurled at children, go see Bad Words. As adult spelling bee competitor Guy Trilby, Jason Bateman (who also directs) ups Billy Bob Thornton’s ante from Bad Santa. And it’s terribly funny. Bateman has become one of the best comedic actors around, and his timing is as impeccable as ever. The basic concept is sturdy enough, too. But the movie crumbles under the weight of its own payoff. As Trilby sails through stages of the competition, you know something is motivating him, but you don’t know what. Until you do know, of course, and then you’re disappointed. Bateman has great scenes with a reporter covering his story (the ever-reliable comedy force that is Kathryn Hahn), as well as a precocious spelling bee frontrunner (Rohan Chand), but a movie with so little soul shouldn’t try so hard to find a heart.
Director: Jason Bateman
Producer: Jason Bateman, Mason Novick, Sean McKittrick, Jeff Culotta, Edward Hamm Jr., Jim Garavente and Darren Demetre
Cast: Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Rohan Chand, Philip Hall, Allison Janney, Ben Falcone, Anjul Nigam, Bob Stephenson, Patricia Belcher, Matthew Zhang, Madison Hu, Rachael Harris, Connor Kalopsis, Judith Hoag and Mychael Bates