40-year old Guy Trilby (Bateman) has found a loophole in the rules of The Golden Quill National Spelling Bee. One that allows him to compete—make that obliterate—his pre-teen competitors. As a result he's outraged parents, contest officials; pretty much everyone. As he wins bee after bee, Trilby remains a class-A jerk. In Trilby, Jason Bateman plays one of the best anti-heroes in comedy in ages. Billy Bob Thornton 2003's Bad Santa was probably the closest unless you count Johnny Knoxville in Bad Grandpa. (We're not.) Bad Words is that good. Read on to find out how Bad Words out does the competition:
1. A Great Jerk of a Character: Trilby's only friend is reporter Jenny Widgeon (Hahn). And she's only nice to him because she's convinced there must be a fascinating reason that an adult would be so heartless as to openly mock and sabotage his tiny rivals. He even places a pack of ketchup on the seat of an insecure girl, making her believe she's having her first period. Yeah, he plays that dirty.
2. Hijinks Equal Genuine Hilarity: Every extreme dude needs his polar opposite. Eager Chaitanya Chopra (Chand) is Trilby's. No matter how rude and offensive Thrilby treats him, the awkward spelling genius never stops smiling. Naturally, booze, gals and other felonies transpire. This is the trickiest part of the script (penned by screenwriter Andrew Dodge) to pull off. One precious moment too many could easily soften the film's mean streak. The surprise is that the antics get even weirder. And funnier.
3. Everybody Hates Him: Janney leads the charge against Trilby as the head of Quill's governing rules and regulations. Think Dark C.J.
4. The Competition Is Fierce: The award-winning documentary Spellbound reveled in making us cheer for the insanely insular kids who spent every waking moment studying complicated words that make everyone else say y-i-k-e-s.
5. Bateman's Own Direction Brings Him Back to the Beginning: Though we've loved him as Michael Bluth on Arrested Development, Bateman has for far too long been playing the well-meaning suburban man. Bad Words reminds us that Bateman was great at being bad way back in the '80s as teen Matthew Burton on the short-lived, but still hilarious It's Your Move.