Bad Words – A Review

bad_words

I was a smart kid who I like to think grew up to be a relatively smart adult. I was one of the first people my age that knew how to read and I could read at an advanced level; when I was in first grade I amazed my classmates by being able to read and understand the books that their older siblings had for homework. I skipped a year of both math and science in middle school and there may have been thoughts to skip me a grade in elementary school until I started intentionally tanking the tests that they were giving me because I was bored with them and because they kept making me skip recess to take them. I wasn’t the smartest kid in the school, but I definitely was near the top.

However, the one thing that I was never any good at was spelling. I am a straight up terrible speller who has benefited greatly from the invention of spellcheck. I have no idea why this is such a struggle for me – you’d think someone who could read well as a child would have also developed a knack for spelling words correctly, but my brain is clearly not wired that way. I struggled with this all through school, since we were required to take spelling tests on a regular basis. I could usually recognize that a word was spelled incorrectly (probably by me) but I’d be hard pressed to tell you what the correct spelling actually was. I still can’t tell you how to spell vacuum properly. Spelling is my Achilles’ heel.

When I was in 5th grade, we had a big spelling bee for our entire grade. It was some sort of qualifier for our elementary school to go on to a bigger spelling bee; I’m a little fuzzy on the details because they wouldn’t let me sign up. Now granted, I wasn’t chomping at the bit to try and spell words in front of my peers, but one of the teachers pulled me aside and said they didn’t think I should participate. “You’re a smart girl – let’s not tip everyone off that you have trouble with this.” So while every other student in the 5th grade, regardless of ability, was spelling their little hearts out, I was nowhere to be found. I wasn’t even in the same room as the spelling bee – they gave me permission to hang out elsewhere, babysitting a kitten that someone inexplicably brought to school with the only other 5th grader that wasn’t allowed to participate in the spelling bee because he was a behavioral challenge. He and I had a fine time (I think I was supposed to be a good influence on him), though in retrospect, I question the wisdom of allowing two 10 years olds and a kitten to roam the school unsupervised. This was also the same year that we figured out how to sneak up on the roof of the school, so we probably could have used a closer eye on us. The 80s were a different time.

Perhaps because I was banned from my once chance to be in a spelling bee, I find them kind of fascinating. I’m always impressed with people that have a talent that I don’t have and there is no doubt that the kids that excel in spelling bees possess a skill that I lack. I don’t necessarily seek out the National Spelling Bee when it is on ESPN, but if I’m flipping the channels and come across it, I’ll stay and watch for a while until some homeschooled 8 year old makes me feel like an idiot.

Because I am intrigued by spelling bees and because I am a fan of raunchy comedies, I thought that Bad Words, Jason Bateman’s directorial debut, would be right up my alley. The idea that a 40 year old man found a loophole to enter a children’s spelling bee sounded particularly promising and the trailer indicated that he was going to use all sorts of inappropriate psychological warfare on his fellow competitors to throw them off their game. I also have an affinity for Bateman, who also stars, and while I’ve grown to appreciate him more as a straight man he can certainly play a jerk with the best of them; he was, after all, Derek Taylor on Silver Spoons.

Despite these encouraging elements, Bad Words ultimately was as great of a movie as I hoped it would be. The film sadly suffered from a problem common to a lot of comedies – all the funniest scenes were in the trailer. The film is tonally a little inconsistent – it isn’t quite sure what kind of movie it wants to be. It definitely dabbles in the area of raunchy comedy, but then it also tries to have a sweetness to it as well. That isn’t impossible to pull off, but it is very difficult and the movie never fully embraces either genre and is a middling hybrid at best. It is still a fun movie, but it fails to live up to its potential. A solid attempt, but not quite there.

Bateman stars as Guy Tribly, a 40 year old who has inexplicably decided to enter spelling bees intended for children. He is on some sort of quest for revenge; I think that the writers believe his motivations are more concealed than they actually are. I figured out his plan pretty quickly. Along the way, he is accompanied by his media sponsor (Kathryn Hahn) and butts heads with the leadership of the spelling bee association (Allison Janney and Philip Baker Hall). One of the young competitors, Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chand), tries to befriend Guy, who can’t help but be charmed a little bit by the boy. Chaitanya is the only person that Guy is remotely nice to, as he unleashes his reign of terror against any of the competitors or parents that try to get in his way.

The film struggles with finding the right balance between Guy saying vile and terrible things to people (many of whom are children) and Guy being the person that we are supposed to be rooting for. The scenes where he plays mind games with the other children in the competition are funny, but you can’t help but think that this is some pretty awful stuff to do to a child. As long as you don’t think of the consequences of his actions, it is mostly funny stuff though it does make it a heavier lift to feel any sort of sympathy for Guy. His friendship with Chaitanya softens him a bit, but even that relationship is obviously problematic. My issues aren’t so much with the acting – Bateman gives his usual solid effort and Rohan Chand is absolutely adorable – but the story just isn’t as well written as it could be. While this is a comedy, I didn’t laugh as much as I expected to; the jokes are kind of a one trick pony – see Jason Bateman say terrible things to women and children and act inappropriately. I would have liked to see a bit more creativity in the execution of the jokes or more varied targets. The premise is very creative, but the story simply doesn’t do much to elevate the concept.
It’s hard to tell how much of this is a result of just the writing and how much of it is because Bateman is a first time director. I’d put more emphasis on the writing, but I can’t discount the effect that a novice director could have on the finished product. There are some really funny people in this movie and I felt like a lot of them were ultimately wasted. When you have Allison Janney at your disposal, you best take full advantage of that.

Bad Words isn’t a bad film, but it isn’t a great film either. I was hoping that I discovered the next This is The End, but there were just too many periods where I wasn’t laughing and was a little bored with what was going on. I think a lot of my enjoyment stems from the inherent goodwill that I have for many of the people associated with the film and my earlier stated curiosity about the world of spelling bees. I did laugh occasionally and I even learned some new words (but not how to spell them – that would have been a miracle), but I unfortunately can’t say that Bad Words is worth the trip to the cinema. This would be an above average rental, but it just doesn’t hit the comedic high notes necessary to shell out your hard earned cash at the multiplex Just watch the trailer and you have seen most of the best moments. I may not be able to properly spell many words, but I do know that Bad Words spells slightly disappointing.

Bad Words opened nationwide on Friday March 28th.

Dead Celebrities Try To Sell You Some Beer

You may remember that one of my early posts on the blog was my complaint of the use of holograms to bring back dead celebrities and make them perform. The idea that we were using technological advancements to raise the dead struck me as tacky and an affront to the memory of these celebrities; let these poor people rest in peace without resurrecting them for commercial gain.

So you can imagine how I feel about this commercial by Dutch brewer Bavaria that hypothesizes that Kurt Cobain, Tupac, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon and Bruce Lee aren’t really dead, but have snuck off to a dessert island away from the prying eyes of the world where they can enjoy all the Bavaria beer that they want:

 

I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

I mean, seriously – how incredibly distasteful. This is a new low for celebrity desecration. I don’t know how anyone could think this was a good idea. Perhaps because they were co-opting American celebrities they thought it would be OK, but that would be an erroneous assumption. This is just gross. The selection of celebrities is especially troubling – Kurt Cobain wrestled many demons, but one of his struggles was dealing with the commercialization of his art. So using his image to hawk beer seems like an especially egregious insult. This isn’t exactly keeping with John Lennon’s value system either. Additionally, several of these celebrities suffered from addiction issues that contributed to their death, so trotting out Cobain, Elvis and Monroe to endorse alcohol isn’t particularly classy.

This commercial also isn’t very well executed; this concept is problematic from its inception but they could have at least tried a little harder to make it funny. But having John Lennon call a bartender by saying “Hey Jude” or having Cobain disgusted by Marilyn’s dress blowing up isn’t at all sophisticated. This is not to say that if they had done a better job with the crafting of the ad it would have been more tolerable – it would not – but the fact that they were so lazy with this somehow makes the ad even more offensive. If you are going to drag out some dead celebs, at least use them in a better manner.

All in all, this is just tremendously tacky. I’m sure that they are happy that people are talking about the ad (the old “any publicity is good publicity” idea), but it just makes me really sad. It’s bad enough that we think we “own” so much of celebrities when they are alive; you’d think that when they passed on they would finally be left alone. All of the people featured in this ad died tragically – haven’t their families really suffered enough? I can’t imagine that Courtney Love, Lisa Marie Presley, or Afeni Shakur is going to be pleased about this.
It’s just a commercial – and not even an American one – but it speaks to a larger problem. There really should be a moratorium on conjuring the dead for advertisement and promotion. At the very least, the families should have to sign off on it; legally this probably can’t be 100% enforced, but morally that seems like the decent thing to do. This is just bleech.

The Nickleback Effect

Everyone hates Nickleback.

Well, not everyone – someone is buying their cds and going to their concerts – but if you ask most people how they feel about this Canadian band, I’m guessing that 19/20 people are going to have something derogatory to say about them. They are a punchline, an easy joke to make about terrible music. The coo thing to do is mock Nickleback.

I have no explanation for how this came about or where all this deep seeded resentment is coming from. I have made more than my fair share of Nickleback jokes over the years, but if I was really challenged to articulate what it is that I dislike so much about them, I’d be hard pressed to come up with much justification other than “they’re the worst.” It’s not rational. But somewhere along the line, we all just decided that Nickleback’s mere existence was an affront to humanity.

My irrational dislike of celebrities isn’t limited to Avril Lavigne’s husband and whoever else is in Nickleback; there are plenty of famous people that I can’t stand for any clear reason. For me, these people have the opposite of box office mojo; their attachment to a project instantly makes me less likely to want to have anything to do with it. I can’t put my finger on what rubs me the wrong way about them – there is no clear reason not to like them – yet my visceral reaction is displeasure. I acknowledge that this isn’t fair or even a reasoned response (I can be rational about my irrationality), but that doesn’t diminish how I feel. In the words of many an idiotic reality show star, I guess I’m just a hater (a word that no one who has graduated high school should ever use seriously).

So what celebrities are unlucky enough to make my list and suffer from the illogical “Nickelback Effect?” Here are some of the people who have inexplicable earned my ire:

 

Minnie Driver

minnie driver

I frequently see commercials for NBC’s new comedy About a Boy and wonder why I’ve never given this show a shot. I liked the movie upon which the series is based and it looks amusing enough. I happen to find star David Walton, who I find affable and liked on the short lived series Bent.

And then about halfway through the promo I am reminded that this show also stars Minnie Driver and my instinct immediately is “Nope – I’m out.”

tumblr_mltlu08DCU1r91mjso1_500

This one-sided beef with Driver goes back as far as I can remember, but I have no idea why it originated or why she is such an anathema to me. I’d pin this on the fact that she dated Matt Damon back in the day, except a) I’m not 12 and b) I have to be reminded that they were ever a couple. So whatever is the source of my annoyance, I don’t think that’s it.

 

Ryan Reynolds

1152958-ryan-reynolds

I know that plenty of girls find him dreamy, but whenever Ryan Reynolds is on the screen I have an overwhelming desire to punch him in the face. Like, I’m legitimately angry that I have to deal with this guy. I even hate his stupid hair. Actually, the hair might have a lot to do with this – my loathing seems to ebb and flow depending on how floppy his hair is. The distaste never completely disappears, but he becomes slightly more palpable dependent on his stylistic choices.

Why do I feel this way? I have no godly idea. He actually seems like he’s a nice enough guy. There are plenty of people who are deserving of such venom. On the surface, he doesn’t strike me as one of them. Sure, he makes some crappy movies, but I haven’t held that against other people. Maybe if he would just let me punch him just once, I’d get this out of my system and get over this.

 

Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway

I’m hardly alone on this one – somewhere around 2012 everyone decided that they were over Anne Hathaway. She’s clearly talented, but there is just something about her that people find off-putting. The problem is, it’s kind of intangible what it is exactly that drives people so batty. My best guess is that she seems to want to be liked so badly that it actually has the opposite effect. It comes off as calculated and desperate to some. My irritation dates back to before the Oscar seemed like a legitimate possibility (don’t tell me that you watched The Princess Diaries and though that you were watching a future Academy Award winner), so while her recent Tracy Flick-like behavior certainly hasn’t helped matters it isn’t my sole reason for disliking her. I was delighted when I recently heard some stories about her from college that were less than flattering (turns out that I am three degrees of separation from her). She just has a certain je ne sais quoi – if je ne sais quoi is French for irrationally hatable.

 

Jamie Foxx

jamie-foxx-5

 

Talent isn’t necessarily in dispute here; I actually can tolerate Jamie Foxx the actor. When he’s playing a role, I can forget that I don’t like him. But as soon as I have to deal with Jamie Foxx the person, all bets are off. When he’s just being himself (or the version of himself he plays in public), I’m instantly riled up. And not in a good way. If he’s on a talk show or at an awards show, I tend to flip the channel to not have to endure his foolishness.

 

Jerry O’Connell

Jerry O Connell

I take it back – I don’t want to waste my punch on Ryan Reynolds; I want to use it on THIS GUY. Intellectually, I know that he isn’t even worth the energy to dislike but I can’t help it. It’s instinctual. I don’t even know enough about him to have grounds for finding him distasteful, but reason isn’t necessary.

 

Ellen Page

Ellen Page

I’ve liked some of her movies and I fully support her recent decision to publically announce that she is gay. Kudos to her for being her true self. But there is still something about her that has always bugged me. It might be her voice and speaking pattern, but that isn’t defined enough so I can’t absolutely say that is what it is that irks me. This reached its full boiling during Inception, but it had been simmering for a while.

 

Jennifer Morrison

jennifer-morrison-mens-fitness-magazine-junejuly-2009-lq-01

I don’t think that it’s a total coincidence that I started to really dislike How I Met Your Mother as soon as Morrison showed up for an extended arc. Sure, the show was beginning to decline in quality, but her mere presence made me a lot less tolerant than I would have been otherwise. She was a large reason that it took some urging for me to watch Once Upon a Time. I just don’t like her – and my distaste for her only increases when she’s a blonde. But whatever her hair color, not a fan.

I genuinely feel badly that I don’t like these people for no apparent reason; I like to give people a fair shake and in these instances the celebrities in question surely didn’t get that. But obviously I don’t feel badly enough to stop irrationally hating on them. I don’t see that changing in the near future. I try to explain this behavior away with the fact that I’m just more perceptive than other people and I’m picking up on something subconsciously that others are missing. After all, I have irrationally hated Shia LaBeouf forever and we all know I turned out to be right about him. So perhaps time will prove me correct with some of these people. I could definitely see Jerry O’Connell doing something smarmy.

Now it’s your turn – what celebrities do you irrationally dislike? Sound off in the comments below.