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Critic's Pick: 'Bad Words'

EntertainmentMoviesJason BatemanAllison JanneyKathryn Hahn

If you haven't made it to "Bad Words," Jason Bateman's directing debut and sarcastic takedown of the spelling bee game, it's just become much easier to indulge in this guilty pleasure. Like Bateman's 40-year-old Guy with a grudge and unbeatable spelling chops, the movie is turning up everywhere now. The competitive spelling world, teeming with bright kids, obsessive parents and rigid educators, proves to be rich terrain for a caustic, clever comedy. The actor-director puts himself in good funny company too — Kathryn Hahn and Allison Janney among others. Screenwriter Andrew Dodge's wordplay is smartly conceived and terribly un-PC. As Guy chalks up wins, his verbal assaults become merciless, but not mirthless. It is almost impossible not to laugh as kids and adults alike are brought to tears. The question is why, Guy? "Bad Words" takes its time spelling that out. But when Bateman and 10-year-old costar Rohan Chand, as Guy's articulate, adorable sidekick, make the trip to the final round, their face-off is worth the wait. And do heed the title: The field of play may be spelling bees, but the words are indeed R-rated bad — and the movie is better for it.

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