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Todd Phillips

The jerk returns to the screen with mean mouth blazing

The jerk returns to the screen with mean mouth blazing

In his new rapid-fire spelling-bee comedy, "Bad Words," Jason Bateman opens his mouth in more ways than one. When a young Indian boy is talking too much, his 40-year-old spelling-bee contestant, Guy Trilby, tells the boy to "point his curry hole" in another direction. When a chubby kids calls him a weirdo, he fires back, "Your chair called me for help."

Some of his vicious quips are funny; others less so. But the pleasures in "Bad Words" aren't the jokes themselves. It's the idea of the jokes — or, more specifically, the idea that someone can make jokes that others won't. For all the film's stabs at humor, it rests on a single comedic...

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