Bad Words (Blu-ray)

July 14, 2014 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

I recently watched David Cronenberg’s Scanners, a film released in 1981. It’s been nearly 35 years since then and after looking at the cast, I’d wondered what had actually happened to many of the actors. As it turns out, several of them are, well, dead. Still, it got me thinking that longevity in Hollywood is a rare thing. It takes a pretty talented person to maintain an acting career (or any career, for that matter) and still have the passion and drive to keep doing and doing it. Such is the case with Jason Bateman.  Bateman is just a few years older than I am and I’d first seen him on the mid 80’s show Silver Spoons, also starring Ricky Schroeder and Alfonso Ribeiro (better-known for his work on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air with Will Smith). He then went onto another television show called Valerie (later re-named The Hogan Family) in which he got his first taste of directing.  Over the years he’s managed to keep a steady stream of work and he’s recently come into the limelight with high-profile roles in films like The Kingdom, Hancock, Identity Thief and Horrible Bosses. So the time has now come for Bateman to step behind the camera on a theatrical film. Directing himself – will his experience as an actor pay off?

Bateman plays Guy Trilby, someone who has never graduated the eighth grade and, now 40 years old, has decided to make it his life’s mission to win a spelling bee – for kids. He’s done his homework, so to speak, and he knows the rules of the tournament like the back of his hand. And when confronted by the program director (Allison Janney) about some technicalities, she sees that he’s essentially outsmarted her at every turn. Guy finds a rather annoying, if not likable, cohort in Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chand), someone who has been groomed for this tournament (and someone who is the correct age). The duo form an unlikely friendship and bond in ways that aren’t exactly politically correct. All the while Guy’s sponsor, Jenny (Kathryn Hahn), his on again/off again lover, is writing a story about him – this also qualifies him to compete. Of course there’s more to the film than vulgar content, but the real question is…why is Guy doing this?  That is covered later on in the film, but viewing this on a purely literal level misses the point of the film entirely.

Certainly there are shades of another off-beat, foul-mouthed comedy with 2003’s Bad Santa. Billy Bob played a mall Santa who was the antithesis of what we’d come to expect of the “spirit of Christmas.” Bateman has delivered a fairly decent film here and though it’s rather polarizing when it comes to the subject matter (Bateman had to cast himself in the lead role after not being able to find the perfect actor for the part), take it with a grain of salt and you should enjoy the ride. Of course the ensemble cast does a nice job as well, with Kathryn Hahn leading the way and matching Bateman’s deadpan humor blow by blow. Phillip Baker Hall and Allison Janney also shine in their respective roles.  While Bad Words might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s nice and encouraging to see films like this that actually take a few risks. I’ve got to credit Jason Bateman for taking this risk and that’s no doubt a key to his past and future success as an entertainer.  Recommended.

Video: How’s it look?

Universal has provided a very nice-looking 2.40:1 AVC HD image for Bad Words, though for reasons not really unknown or explained, a majority of the film seems to be shot with a brownish tint. No, that’s not just the cover art that’s trying to be artistic, the actual film itself has shades of the beginning segment of The Wizard of Oz. I suppose most comedies tend to be bright and cheery, but perhaps given the darker nature of this movie, they felt that this might give it a look all its own. Still, detail is impressive as expected, contrast and black levels are on the mark and despite a slight bit of banding early on, it’s a top notch transfer that’s sure to please.

Audio: How’s it sound?

As is the case with most comedies, there’s not a whole lot going on with the DTS HD Master Audio mix. It has a few moments of greatness, but by and large this is a front-heavy track with a bit of subtle ambiance offered by the surrounds. Vocals come across clear and crisp, we get to hear every four letter word with the utmost in uncompressed clarity. That’s a good thing. The soundtrack has a few moments as well, but this one delivers the goods and should satisfy viewers.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Not a whole lot is included here and lacking any Blu-ray exclusives is a bit of a turn off, but still what’s included is interesting.

  • Audio Commentary – Jason Bateman delivers a pretty technically informative commentary track and after his three plus decades in front of the camera, it’s clearly rubbed off on him. He’s passionate about the film and gives a lot of insight as to the composition and framing of shots and the like. Not a whole lot more information is learned about the film itself other than a few musings. Still, it’s a good listen.
  • The Minds and Mouth Behind Bad Words – A ten minute feature in which we get the usual information about the cast and crew. Bateman explains why he had to take the lead role, how poor a speller he is and writer Andrew Dodge was philosophical on the film.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – Technically only one deleted scene is included as the rest are actually extended versions of scenes already in the film. It’s nice to have, nonetheless.
  • DVD/UltraViolet Copy

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