BAD WORDS

There are comedies that start out nasty-funny like ELECTION that keep their bite all the way through to the bitter ends. More often, these kind of comedies go soft in their third acts, and that’s the story here. It’s sort of a reverse IDENTITY THIEF, Jason Bateman’s enemy-turned-frenemy-turned buddy movie — only with a kid instead of Melissa McCarthy. Ten minutes in, you know what the first plot turn will be, and shortly after that (long before it’s made evident) you see the second one. It’s dispiriting to correctly guess so early that we’ll be winding up in mush. There are laughs, but they all belong to Bateman when he’s being insulting. As he turns into the kinder, gentler, misunderstood avenger that Hollywood demands, he’s not as entertaining. Bateman is talented enough to juice up wan material. So is Philip Baker Hall, here in a pretty thankless but key role. Alison Janney is tough and no-nonsense. Rachael Harris is fun to watch reacting to Jason’s description of her vagina as an elephant’s trunk (“grey… distended…”). And the kid, Rohan Chand, is a natural. The movie doesn’t deserve bad words. But not high praise, either. — Jeff Schultz

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