A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Bad Words is a mostly hilarious, sharp-edged comedy, with lots of crude humor. Though it features children as part of its cast, it's not kid-friendly. In fact, its lead character spares nobody his caustic verbal attacks, including kids. Prepare to hear loads of insulting and coarse language, including "c--ksucker," "s--t" and "f--k." There are also a few scenes showing a couple having sex, though we see only their faces, and a brief view from above the waist. An adult discusses sex with a child as if they're the same age, and even hires a prostitute to show off her breasts to him, which viewers see as well.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
The scathing Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) won't stop until he wins the Golden Quill national spelling bee. Who cares if his competitors are children, like Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chand), a charming 10-year-old with a fiercely competitive father? A reporter Jenny Widgeon (Kathryn Hahn) is following Guy around, trying to get his story (and sometimes forgetting where the journalistic line of ethics is). Why is he on this quest? And will he prevail, despite the best efforts of spelling-bee administrator Dr. Deagan (Allison Janney) to foil him?
Is it any good?
BAD WORDS is f-u-n-n-y. But its humor is cloaked with the rage that Trilby has for pretty much everyone in the world, sometimes making it difficult to digest. Were it not for Bateman, who has the talent for making the most unappealing characters sympathetic, the film would have a hard time finding fans. How could one cheer on a hateful guy like Guy? But Bateman, who also serves for the first time as a feature film director here, knows how to milk a joke and when to let it do its thing on its own. And he taps into a humanity that Guy could've easily been stripped of, not to mention a keen sense of pacing and delivery. The rest of the cast acquit themselves well, too.
Nonetheless, Bad Words may alienate rather than attract fans. It pushes the envelope to the point of ripping. Some jokes seem ill-conceived, as when an adult hires a prostitute to show off her breasts to a child. One may laugh, but with a lot of unease. Sometimes that discomfort comes from a good place; you laugh because you recognize the worst parts of yourself. But other times, it also comes from a place where sensible people might ask if the filmmakers really needed to go there. It all adds up in the end to a mostly satisfying and entertaining, albeit discomfitting, movie -- one kids should probably steer clear of until they can spell "misanthrope" without stumbling.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Guy's relationship with Chaitanya: What draws them together? Why does Chaitanya put up with Guy's insults?
Guy Trilby swears a lot. Do you think the filmmakers drive home this point way too often, or is it necessary for his character? Discuss swearing in movies with your family.
- In theaters: March 14, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: July 8, 2014
- Cast: Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Allison Janney
- Director: Jason Bateman
- Studio: Focus Features
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 89 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: crude and sexual content, language and brief nudity
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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