Bad Words

A 40-year-old troublemaker (Jason Bateman) takes advantage of a legal loophole to enter a nationwide spelling bee, dragging along a freaky journalist who’s writing a magazine story about him (Kathryn Hahn) and doing his best to corrupt a lonely Indian-American tyke (Rohan Chand) who’s entered in the competition. Trashy, ribald laughs in the Bad Santa vein, this marks Bateman’s directorial debut; it’s not much to look at, but at least he has the nerve to push the insolence, profanity, and brutal insult humor to its absolute limits. Comedians always pay lip service to Groucho Marx, but few mainstream performers actually attempt his level of viciousness; Bateman does it with ease, and his put-downs can be breathtaking. Andrew Dodge wrote the screenplay; with Allison Janney, Ben Falcone, and Philip Baker Hall.