Return to Juno (it’s been time enough) and we bet it won’t be Ellen Page or Diablo Cody’s zinger-laden script you’ll notice, but the shockingly good Jason Bateman. He’s the closest thing to a villain the movie has, yet his crime is a subtle one: an inability to grow up. For his feature directorial debut, Bateman plays right to his secret strengths as Guy, a bitter 40-year-old schemer who enters an esteemed national spelling bee by exploiting a loophole in the rules. Technically, Guy did drop out of junior high, and long before he sits down among the mystified preteen-brainiac competitors, you can tell he’s got a score to settle.
Bad Words soars in the bits of riotously offensive chitchat between Guy and a young Indian hopeful (Rohan Chand); it wobbles in plot developments involving the effortlessly starchy Allison Janney as the contest’s “queen bee”; and it splats in the I’m-secretly-hurting conclusion. (Screenwriter Andrew Dodge might have called this one Arrested Development, had the name not been taken.) But Bateman’s verbal dexterity remains a vicious thing.
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