Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Allison Janney, Philip Baker Hall, Rohan Chand. Comedy. Written by Andrew Dodge. Directed by Jason Bateman.
FILM SYNOPSIS: An angry, cynical, 40-year-old man, bitter from some misdeed done to him in the past, which we discover late in the film (unless youíve ever seen a movie before, in which case youíll figure it out by the end of reel one), finds a loophole in the rules of a kidís spelling bee and enters the contest seeking revenge. Heís not above destroying his completion with mind games, including causing a preteen to believe sheís menstruating. (You just cringed, didnít you? Well, there are lots of cringe-worthy moments that make that one seem downright staid.)
PREVIEW REVIEW: What was I thinking? I generally pass on R-rated comedies. No matter how clever some insist films like Bridesmaids or Death at a Funeral may be, I avoid them because Iíve learned that R-rated comedies depend hugely on the crude and the obscene to fill in for plot or purpose. Iíve seen so many films that contain the ďI-canít-believe-I-just-saw-thatĒ factor. Because somewhere along the way crudity replaced wit and creative effort in movie comedies (generally), I now avoid them whenever possible. But I was sucked into this mess of a movie thinking it might have something poignant to say about the use of language (the title Bad Words, the story set at a spelling bee lured me in). Poignancy from a Jason Bateman film? Again, what was I thinking?
I kept trying to figure out the point of this movie. Son and abandoning-father issues? Cynicism defeated by a childís innocence? Possibly. But more likely, itís just another attempt to drag the societyís culture further down the rabbit hole of smutty humor. (No, thatís not the purpose of this filmmaker. But that seems to be the result of his efforts.)
I donít want my piety against perversity to sound self-righteous; Iím too faulty to throw stones. But I donít usually look to find ways to guide myself or anyone else away from the teachings of Philippians 4:8, ďFinally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable Ė if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.Ē Itís as if films like Bad Words want to abandon such biblical principles. So, while laughs can be had watching Bad Words, I ask myself, at what cost?
Jason Bateman is good at playing smirky, smarmy and downright salacious; heís kind of a mean- spirited Adrian Monk or a satanic Sheldon Cooper or even a badder Bad Santa. Trouble is, heís just too good at being this tree-swinging looney. Heís been doing barb-tongued shrewdness since the sitcom Silver Spoons, his perfection of this persona now more scary than clever.
In this film his character doesnít just hang with a lonely 10-year-old brainiac, he also hires a hooker to show the kid her breasts, buys him booze, encourages him to swear, and aids him in breaking several felonious laws. Of course, this is meant as black comedy. But it wasnít funny, though that didnít stop some in the screening audience from laughing. Once more, I found it to be an ďI-canít-believe-I-just-saw-thatĒ reaction from the crowd. When you analysis the filmís lead character, the guy is kind of creepy. The law-breaking montage is creepy. And the premise is creepy.
Oh, you know what else was creepy? The parents who brought their 8- or 9-year-old boy to this film. Good luck with that parenting, kid.
DVD Alternatives: The Courtship of Eddieís Father (both the movie & the TV series). Eddie thinks it is time for his widowed father to remarry. However, in his opinion his father's taste in women leaves much to be desired. He believes the girl next door would be a far better choice.
Akeelah and the Bee. Akeelah Anderson (Keke Palmer) is a precocious eleven-year-old from south Los Angeles with a gift for words. Despite the objections of her mother (Angela Bassett), Akeelah enters various spelling contests, for which she is tutored by the forthright Dr. Larabee (Laurence Fishburne), and the proud residents of her neighborhood. The film has several positive messages, including caring and sacrificing for others. It also reminds each of us that while there are dark valleys we must go through on our travels through life, green pastures also lay ahead.
The Iron Giant. Animated kidsí adventure about an imaginative little boy who befriends a giant robot who doesn't seem to know how he came to be (something we never learn, although it appears in the beginning that he came from space). Highly entertaining, with humor aimed both at kids and adults. Set in the '50s, it's a little hard on the military and government secret agencies, but it also deals with spiritual issues, stating, "Souls don't die, they go on forever." Suggesting thematic ideas from The Day The Earth Stood Still and King Kong, The Iron Giant is smart, funny, and exciting. However, parents should view with little ones, both to reassure and to explain certain messages.
The Boy with Green Hair. Dean Stockwell, Pat O'Brien. A fable about a war orphan who becomes an outcast when his hair turns green. Although when made the film spoke of European children whose parents were killed in the war, today's audiences gets a poignant message about the discrimination children with AIDS must face. The film has a great look, some of it in B&W, some scenes filmed in color.
Together. This Chinese film from 2002 concerns a widowed father who sacrifices everything in order to support his teenage sonís gifted musical abilities. The son canít see the sacrifices made on his behalf until the end. Beautifully filmed in the ďForbidden CityĒ of China, full of humor, drama and insight, Together is a powerful morality play with an ending that moved me to tears. It reminded me of 1 Timothy 5:8: ďIf anyone does not provide for his relatives, he has denied the faith.Ē There are other movies with the same title. This is from China and South Korea and is rated PG.