Tag Archives: Kathyrn Hahn

Words With Enemies


Bad Words


by George Wolf

Is it amusing to watch a 40 year old man act like a total S.O.B. to everyone around him, frequently unleashing crude verbal assaults on kids and parents alike?

When that man is Jason Bateman..yes, yes it is.

Bateman not only stars, but makes his big screen directorial debut in Bad Words, and he delivers a darkly funny romp through the cutthroat world of spelling bees. Think Best in Show meets Bad Santa and you’ll be in the right-but-way-wrong neighborhood.

Smarmy Guy Trilby (Bateman) crashes the spelling regionals in his hometown of Columbus, informing the judges that through a loophole in the rules, he is eligible to compete. With no legal grounds to deny him, they relent and find out Guy is not only a great speller, but a nasty douchebag who will stop at nothing to humiliate his opponents.

Why would a grown man do such a thing?

Reporter Jenny Widgeon (Kathryn Hahn) reflects our curiosity, and she travels with Guy on his journey to the national finals, hoping to discover his motives and land a story.

The screenplay, a debut for Andrew Dodge, has apparently been floating around for years, scaring off potential filmmakers with its down and dirty edges. Bateman, who’s been elevating projects since his days as a child actor, proves a natural at fleshing it out.

As a comic actor, Bateman’s timing is always flawless, a trait which translates well to his direction. He keeps the story lean and mean, with a quick pace and plenty of funny moments that never feel forced. Best of all, the heartwarming life lessons are kept to a minimum.

If you guessed that Guy and reporter Jenny find love, while a cute young speller teaches Guy the meaning of friendship, no one could blame you. Bateman’s not following that tired formula, and bless him for that.

That’s not to say that Jenny and Guy don’t share some hilariously awkward moments, or that precocious spelling champ Chaitanya (young Rohan Chand in a charming performance) doesn’t want to be friends, but Bateman never lets any of it become overly saccharine. He sets his tone and, for the most part, sees it through.

If you don’t like nasty funny, stay far away from Bad Words.

But if you do, come sit next to me.





Skip the Guitar Parts


by George Wolf


Maybe the thing I appreciate most about We’re the Millers is the acoustic guitar.

The music provides an unmistakeable cue that it’s time to quit joking about family ties and get real about real feelings that are real. Just know these moments won’t last too long, and then it’s back to some pretty damn funny business.

Jason Sudeikis (SNL/Horrible Bosses/engaged to Olvia Wilde/life is good) plays David, a small time pot dealer in debt to a big time pot dealer (Ed Helms, possibly confusing those who still think he and Sudeikis are the same person). To stay alive, David just has to cross the border and bring back ” a smidge, maybe smidge and a half” of weed from Mexico.

He figures a vacationing family would attract less attention down Mexico way, so he recruits a local stripper (Jennifer Aniston) to pose as his wife. After rounding out the faux family with a nerdy neighbor (Will Poulter) as their son, and a young runaway (Emma Roberts) as their daughter, its time to pack up the RV and hit the road!

The four-man writing team at work here sports a decent résumé, featuring screenplays for Hot Tub Time Machine, She’s Outta My League and Wedding Crashers. If those don’t exactly go straight to your funny bone, or more pointedly, if you frown upon the raunchy, stay far away from We’re the Millers.

Otherwise, the film gets better as it moves along. The contrivance needed for some of the gags is usually wiggled out of pretty deftly, as director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball) shows a nice feel for the pacing needed to sell this premise.

Aniston, as she did in Horrible Bosses, proves extremely likable digging into a character’s dark comedic edges. True, playing a stripper offers yet another chance to serve up the cheesecake, but as well as she’s aging, it’s hard to blame her.

She and Sudeikis display a nice chemistry, especially when they’re bein’ bad, and they get solid support from Kathyrn Hahn (“AN-y-th-in” from Anchorman) and Nick Offerman (TVs Parks and Recreation) as fellow RV travelers with surprises for everyone.

There are also a couple “breaking the fourth wall” moments, and some great outtakes as the credits roll. Pandering? Sure, but funny.

The main problem is simple inconsistency. The successful skewering of family cliches is interrupted by awkward reminders that families really are good! Nice is nice and all, but when you hang with We’re the Millers, naughty is where the fun is.