I think it’s fair to say that Jason Bateman is one of the most likable actors working today. In movies like The Change-Up and Horrible Bosses, he puts an edge to the classic straight-man role. On top of that, he seems like a smart guy, which is why I was eager to see his directorial debut, this black comedy. I have no doubt Bateman himself would like the film referred to as a 'twisted' black comedy, sadly there is no plot to twist.
Our story begins at a regional spelling bee. Guy Trilby (Bateman) has discovered that the rule book does not specify an age cutoff to compete, only that the contestant not have completed eighth grade. Much to the outrage of parents and contest officials, Trilby is allowed to enter. As Guy continues to advance, he is befriended by a young contestant, Chaitanya (Rohan Chand), who, much like Guy, has a less than ideal family structure. An inexplicably co-dependent reporter, Jenny (Kathryn Hahn), also goes along for the ride, trying, much like the audience, to derive the reasons for Guy’s petulant behavior. By the time an explanation arrives, it’s too late to care.
Three things: 1) The little boy, Rohan Chand, has got to be the cutest child to appear on screen since Drew Barrymore squealed at ET. I mean it, this kid could melt glaciers. 2) I don’t understand why Kathryn Hahn is always the mildly funny, comically sexual supporting role in every comedy on the planet. I mean she’s fine—she’s not giving Meryl Streep a run for her money, but she’s fine. Are there no other medium-attractive funny women in Hollywood? Just curious. 3) This movie stinks. I laughed twice; and while I get what they were trying to accomplish, all the capable direction and onscreen talent in the world couldn’t save this script. It’s a 5.