Jason Bateman stars and directs this story of a 40 year old man who enters a kids spelling bee through a loophole in the rules. He befriends one of his competitors in the process, a ten year old boy.
Bateman’s character is obscene and foul mouthed, and the clash between him and the ten year old is where much of the comedy stems from. This sounds like a gimmick but somehow Bateman deftly dodges the wacky clichés and makes it work. Their relationship is genuinely funny and endearing.
The supporting cast is a foolproof line-up of actors. Allison Janney & Philip Baker Hall stand out in particular, they continue their streaks of being good in everything.
One of the film’s central messages rings loud and true; loving one’s child is important, thinking they are better than everyone else’s is just wrong. It’s a bit of a brutal middle finger to the audience but it’s quite refreshing.
This is a great début from Bateman. Not perfect but still funny, relevant and memorable.