Bad Words



Comedy best for older teens gets laughs with offbeat humor.
  • Review Date: March 12, 2014
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 89 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Even the biggest grump can be softened, if only a little bit, with love, friendship, and understanding. Expect some sexist and racist comments played for humor.

Positive role models

Guy Trilby isn't exactly a role model. He's bitter, angry, and insulting. He's the kind of mean grouch who calls a little boy of Indian heritage "shwarma" and "tikka masala." However, he does follow an interesting trajectory in the movie, landing in a much warmer emotional space than when we first meet him. It's Chaitanya Chopra, his 10-year-old competitor at a spelling bee, who's more generous-hearted than most anyone else in the movie.


A man verbally tears apart the people around him -- children, included -- and seems to be immune to the feelings of others, throwing insults and curses at them whenever they get in his way. In one scene, he derides a woman with graphic descriptions of her genitalia. Parents throw a chair and spit at a car carrying a hated spelling-bee rival.


A couple is shown having sex in a supply closet -- we see only their faces but it's clear they're having sex from their conversation, movements, and facial expressions. It's played as over-the-top funny, not seductively. A man hires a prostitute to show off her breasts to a 10-year-old boy, which we see, too. The boy later asks if he can touch them. Again this is played for laughs, but it has a very sharp edge. A boy bugs an adult, who, irritated, mentions the word "auto-fellatio" to the child.


A movie about a spelling bee is word-crazy, including curse words: "s--t," "---hole," "hell," "screw," "d--keater," "c--ksucker" and "f--k," sometimes said by, or in front of, a child.


Some labels: Apple, Kahlua, Ford, Jameson.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Guy tends to drink a lot, whenever he finds himself near a bar or mini-bar. Sometimes he passes out drunk, and he's also shown driving soon after downing shots, with a child as passenger. Some adults smoke in the movie.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 14, 2014
DVD release date:July 8, 2014
Cast:Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Allison Janney
Director:Jason Bateman
Studio:Focus Features
Run time:89 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:crude and sexual content, language and brief nudity

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written byKrazyreviews April 9, 2014

Smart, funny, and crude.

Bad words is named bad words for a reason. It is very funny and best for older teens. There are crude sex jokes and swearing, and some brief nudity. This movie does somehow give a message about friendship. This film is a must see for comedy lovers and is a little mature for young children. 16+
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Adult Written byBestPicture1996 April 25, 2014

A bad time at the movies

Whenever an actor sheds their friendly persona to play somebody out of character I'm always listening: take McConaughey for an example! But unfortunately Jason Bateman thought this was a good enough script to produce, direct and star in, and I just did not care for it. I get that it's trying to be edgy, and I'm all for that type of humor. But when edgy spills over into cruelty that's where you lose me, and although he has his reasons, Bateman's Guy is just too ruthless a jerk for me to ever root for him, a racist, misogynist misanthrope with one goal on his mind. If the humor paid off I could excuse these faults, but the laughs were far and in between. If this is what Mean Bateman looks like, I'm glad to go back to Michael Bluth any day.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 16 years old Written byStevie111 April 1, 2014

Good, smart, funny movie

Crude sexual humor and language scattered throughout. Funny, original comedy, good for mature teens
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing


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