Lots of comedies use an unlikable protagonist as the source of dark comedy -- and Bad Words is no exception.  Starring (and directed by) Jason Bateman, this movie begins and ends with his role as a man everyone loves to hate.
Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) is a 40-year-old proofreader with a strange plan: to win the Golden Quill Spelling Bee.  While this competition is for kids, Trilby takes advantage of the loophole that the participants cannot have passed beyond the eighth grade and Trilby never graduated from grammar school.  And Trilby couldn't be a worse competitor: He revels in the hatred of the parents of the other competitors, plays horrible mind games on the kids right before they take their turn, and curses and insults just about anyone who speaks to him.
Trilby is followed by Jenny Widgeon (Kathryn Hahn), a reporter (and meaningless-sex buddy for Trilby) for whom getting information from Trilby is like pulling teeth.  Young Chaitanya Chopa (Rohan Chand) is an irrepressibly chipper kid and speller who decides to make Trilby his friend despite all the curses and abuse.  Bernice Deagan (Allison Janney) is the director of the Spelling Bee who'll do anything to keep Trilby from winning, and Dr. Bowman (Philip Baker Hall) is the dignified creator of the Spelling Bee who warns Trilby about making a mistake by winning the Spelling Bee.

Jason Bateman is very good as both director and star of Bad Words.  He makes Trilby revel in being as offensive as possible, while admitting in voiceovers that he doesn't think things through or consider consequences.  Unfortunately, almost every other part of the movie falls to the wayside, existing only to react to Trilby's bad behavior.  There's the ticking clock of the three-day finals, some movement towards sappiness to keep Trilby from being totally unsympathetic, and some revelations that aren't all the surprising.
Bad Words is a movie based solely around the main character's bad traits.  Bateman does well with them, but the rest of the movie is almost deliberately forgettable.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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