Trust me when I say that “Bad Words” is amusing in a politically incorrect way. It is also an unremarkable film. Without Rohan Chand (Chayanya Chopra) this film would have little to recommend it. Rohan is charming, striking and convincing as an innocent young boy and a spelling bee competitor.
Guy Trilby is a 40ish proofreader who has an axe to grind. Without divulging the nature of the “axe,” be assured that Trilby is bound and determined to pull-off a stunt that he hopes will even the score with someone who wronged him many years earlier. The spelling bee is his chosen venue to affect the revenge he seeks. The problem, however, is that Spelling Bees are designed for young people not men in their 40ies. Trilby discovers a loophole in the contest rules that allows him as a pre-8th grade school dropout to “technically” qualify as a contestant. As expected Guy Trilby sticks out like a very sore thumb when on stage with the kids for whom the competition was designed.
Everyone involved in the competitions is horrified, disgusted and madder than hell to have this bad natured, but technically correct, man compete. The parents of the child contestants behave like ill-mannered little league parents – try and imagine that. The contest officials attempt to rig the competition to improperly eliminate the spelling contest interloper. Allison Janney is perfectly cast as Dr. Bernice Deagan, the up-tight perpetrator of a series of unethical maneuvers that fail to get the unwanted Trilby out of the competition.
Mr. Trilby is not only a master speller; he is also an ill-tempered, foul-mouthed (e.g. bad words) and sexually and racially insensitive person. He resorts to some terrible “shenanigans” to unnerve some of the more formidable contestants including Chayanya Chopra (Rohan Chand.) While some of the kids are intimidated by Guy’s behavior, Chayanya is not. In fact, he bonds with the unremittingly disagreeable Trilby.
While occasionally repeating some of his nemesis’ vile language, Chayanya remains charming and decorous. In the process he succeeds in tempering Trilby’s anger and softening the effect of his ill-tempered revenge strategy. Again, without revealing the way the story resolves/revolves, the innocent guilelessness of the fine young boy attenuates the anger of the antagonist.
“Bad Words” is Jason Bateman’s debut film as a director. Without the moving performance of Rohan Chand I would be hard put to seriously recommend this film. The Book of Isaiah (11:6) suggests “A little child shall lead the way.” Rohan Chand certainly does.