Misogynistic, homophobic, scatological — none of these words come up in any of the spelling bees that take place in Jason Bateman’s directorial debut, but they apply to the film. In the tradition of comedies such as “Bad Santa” and “Bad Grandpa,” in which a foul-mouthed curmudgeon meets his or her match in an irrepressibly good-natured kid, “Bad Words” wins the prize for worst of the bunch. It’s nasty enough, but it isn’t so much funny as it is pathological.
Here the grump is Guy Trilby (Bateman, wearing a perpetual expression of weary contempt), a 40-year-old who for some reason has decided to exploit a loophole in the rules to enter the annual Golden Quill national spelling contest for eighth graders. He has a savant-like talent for the sport, so he mows down the snotty-nosed preadolescent competition in the preliminary rounds, each time rousing the fury of pushy parents. This gives Trilby ample opportunity to display the ornate, obscene, and repugnant put-downs that pass for wit in Andrew Dodge’s script.