“Bad Words” does to spelling bees what “Bad Santa” did to Santa Claus. Jason Bateman plays Guy Trilby, a dyspeptic high school dropout who enters the Golden Quill National Spelling Bee by exploiting a loophole allowing him to compete with kids. Why would he want to do such a thing? The ultimate answer is as sappy as the rest of the film isn’t.
Directed by Bateman in his first solo effort and written by Andrew Dodge, the film is an irreverant jape with its fair share of standout comic performances. Besides Bateman, the tiptop cast includes Philip Baker Hall, Kathryn Hahn, little Rohan Chand as Guy’s chief adversary, and Allison Janney as the spelling bee’s ramrod-tough director. Grade: B+ (Rated R for crude and sexual content, language and brief nudity.)