Sticks, Stones and Bad Words

Hmmm… an R-rated comedy directed and staring Jason Batemon with children? yeah, sign me up. Today were gonna take a look at Jason Batemon’s of Arrested Development fame directorial debut.  Jason plays Guy Trilby, a 40-year-old man who abuses loophole in the Quill National Spelling Bee.  This loophole allows him to compete in the competition much to the chagrin of parents and tournament faculty.

So the question that is on everyone’s mind.  Why would a grown man participate in a spelling bee designed for children.  Guy is rude and doesn’t seem have an ounce of shame about hijacking the competition and he doesn’t care about the number of insults or racial slurs he has to throw along the way.

Guy’s character doesn’t have many talents except for his ability to spell.  He dropped out of middle school which would normally be a mark of shame.  In this case, it’s that very fact that allows him to compete in the spelling bee.  While his skills would likely be enough to win, he likes to mess with his follow competitors.  He even goes as far as taunting a child that he slept with his mother the night before.  Mom jokes are nothing too new, but lets just say he goes through some extra lengths to make it convincing.  His road to glory isn’t met with much support.  The parents are outraged and the event staff are equally vexed.  Multiple attempts are made to sabotage him including and not limited to receiving some of the longer and more challenging words.  Only one person seems to want to be around him.  The 10-year-old Chaitanya Chopra played by Rohan Chand.

Not such a bad team

For what it’s worth, the movie doesn’t become the standard adult/child bonding movie.  Chaitanya attachment to Guy is a product of the satire the movie is trying to hit.  The notion of the win at all cost mentality of the parents.  The enormous pressure they put their kids under.  Chaitanya has done nothing but train for this spelling bee and he just wants a friend, and thinks maybe Guy can fill that role.  It does boil down to a movie about two very different people, trying to win a National Spelling Bee for two very different reasons.

Bateman’s directional debut is a mixed bag.  The biggest problem is that it doesn’t go out on any limbs. As a satire, it doesn’t really go after the institution of spelling bees that hard.  I have to also be honest, this may not have been the point either.  You eventually find out the motivations for Guy and for better or worst it’s a deeper reason.  For better because Guy isn’t just the crudest dude on earth.  For worst because it almost cancels out the satire.  The film is a comedy, and it almost completely stands on Bateman’s shoulders.   Most of the comedy comes from the onslaught of slurs and insults coming from Guy. Fortunately Bateman’s flair for morbid delivery and comedic timing takes him pretty far, but it runs out of gas a few times.  When you remove the film’s satirical identity, the story becomes fairly straight forward. It’s a good start for Bateman, his works will improve.

If you’re a fan of Jason Bateman, this movie will be up your alley.  Don’t expect it to jump out at you or anything like that.  This film isn’t quite memorable but it’s not the typical.  The banter between Guy and Chaitanya is a lot of fun, especially because of it’s R-rated nature.  I get a good tickle when children curse in movies, only when it’s in comedies (Don’t Judge Me).

Ranking: C+


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