Starring Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Rohan Chand; directed by Jason Bateman; 88 minutes; R for language, nudity, adult themes; B

"Bad Words" is to spelling bees what "Bad Santa" was to Christmas: crude, rude and painfully funny, with a dash of sweetness.

Jason Bateman, making his directorial debut, stars as Guy Trilby, a full-grown adult who, after cleverly manipulating some loopholes, manages to get himself seated as a competitor in the nationally televised spelling bee, going up against a bunch of children.

It's great fun, with the normally affable Bateman obviously enjoying the role of emotional hit man. Part of the film's odd charm is Guy's complete indifference to his unpopularity and to pretty much everything. Yet something is driving him.

In truth, the big reveal at the end isn't as satisfying as the barbed path that leads to it. But Bateman's sour demeanor and dry putdowns are priceless. This is twisted, funny stuff.

Tom Long, The Detroit News