In Bad Words, his directorial debut, Bateman attempts to be the centre of attention by being a man with a mission, and a foul mouth.
He plays Guy Trilby, a 40-year-old who uses a loophole to enter the Golden Quill Spelling Bee. His competitors are children. His goal is to win. Everything else is less certain.
His sidekick is Jenny Widgeon (Kathryn Hahn), a reporter who never seems to be able to get Guy to answer questions about his purpose. Otherwise, she is along for the ride anyway, though I’m never actually sure of her purpose in the film other than to occasionally serve us, the audience, with information about Guy she gets through other means.
Much of the humour of the movie comes from Guy’s resistant friendship with fellow competitor, 10-year-old Chaitanya (Rohan Chand), whom he gives some wild first experiences to. Despite that, their off-colour relationship never goes beyond basic nor does it get very deep.
Bad Words has plenty of funny moments throughout but it never strays too far from the same type of humour, basically retelling the same style of joke in a bunch of different ways. We know a 40-year-old competing with kids in a spelling bee can lead to many funny moments, now what?
Initially I was expecting Guy’s purpose of pursuing the spelling bee to be some sort of commentary on the state of the education system, hence his need for Jenny, whom I had assumed was an investigating journalist. Mini-spoiler alert, I was wrong. I soon realized his revenge was for something else completely and it became much less interesting.