One of the key things we take from this film is that if you want to intrude on an exclusively prole ritual like child beauty pageants, dismaying parents and causing participants to cry, by all means go for it -- we'll chortle right along with you: films like "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Bad Grandpa" paved the way for us to feel no compunctions. But if you're intruding on a ritual being used to build up children's resumes expecting to get into the ivy leagues -- like Spelling Bs -- then you only get to half mean it. A bright child of affluent, educated parents is inserted into this movie -- purposely beset upon Jason Bateman's Guy Trilby, on the presumption that Guy won't defeat the dreams of a kid he ends up considering a friend. And though the gambit works, you sense it wasn't owing to friendship but that the kid served as a grinning "Cheshire Cat," castration-reminder afflicting him throughout the movie: this kid is of the class that is getting it all right now... do you, Guy Trilby, really mean your revenge so deeply that you'd impinge upon the momentum of gentrifiers successfully intimidating most of us from speaking our own frustrations too loudly and from doubting the bright sure forward momentum of the world? Didn't think so. So enjoy your "hotel trashing" truculence for awhile -- and heck, make mincemeat of the working class, single mother, who's barely keeping a tether on her being mentally stable, calling her, as you so deliciously do, a "blown-out weak sock of a vagina" from a "shit-kicking town." But you'll be a good boy and limit your wreckage there.
The final scene involves Guy ceding the championship to Chaitanya Chopra, the son of Cosby-parent types of the colour -- brown -- we're favouring now, not just for their endorsement of multiculturalism -- which is cover -- but for their intermixing into our elitist society confident centuries-worth of Brahmanism. He's decided that he'd already achieved what he wanted by entering the contest… but with him ultimately losing and the type of child the contest would want to win actually winning, it's hard to imagine how that is. As such, the finish irritated me so much I had to begin this review with harsh criticism. But if one could somehow edit out Chaitanaya as so many have mentally edited out Jar Jar from the "Star Wars" films, I'd have simply commended this film. Guy got royally ripped off in life. His parents weren't there for him, and the school system convinced him the world could readily do without his further progress -- which was why he never finished the 8th grade. Twenty five years ago one might have made a future for yourself none the less, but with today people putting blinkers on all those without reassuring resumes that ripple down ongoing progression as if the person at the end is due to crack out of a human shell into an exfoliating angel, his human story is already simply done: he belongs with those history has simply discarded; people who are living but so irrelevant to narratives we want to superimpose upon the world he might just as well be a ghost amongst the living, so much are we blurring their aberrancy out of our vision. He couldn't even finish 8th grade!," as he is sized up by one appraiser in the film. A dead-end, still around, intermixing irritatingly amongst those still with forward momentum -- complete, flatulent, human yuck!
So he has nothing to lose by entering the Spelling B, and there's a sense that even if he won at the nationals, the world, however irritated by it, wouldn't either. When contemporary films show youth beauty pageants being disrupted, we're expected not to fret what the disruption might be doing to the contestants because we're expected to see the whole ritual as something dangerously aberrant from what these kids ought to be doing anyway. It's already a sidestep into something terribly foul, so disrupting it is like stirring matter already settled into excrement. We are learning, however, to be aware that the kind of performance exam that ostensibly can establish one as singular and truly worthy -- the SATs -- is coming to bear the stink of an affixed mark of one's lack of meaningful distinction as well. For each increment of twenty thousand dollars in parental income, a child's SAT score will increase by ten to thirty points. Who you are, we are coming to appreciate -- and also desire to loudly advertise -- depends on the amount of money your parents make. You are, that is -- whatever your hopes to be autonomous, your own person -- mostly a member of a class. If you were near the top of a Spelling B, you'll be near the top of the SATs, and you'll have come from parents around the two hundred thousand income level who've hoisted into you the DNA, the bullseye-perfect training, and perhaps most importantly, the presumption, to achieve at this level. But if for some reason you're bumped off early in life -- maybe by some crazy Guy type, gone not truculent but violently anarchist -- not to worry: every other person at your station possess the same elite-level "algorithms," and they're still thriving. We'd be upset that someone ragged took down one of the elite, but not that you, personally, Chaitanaya -- or whomever you might be -- are lost to us.
When a society is becoming so that even if you'd prefer otherwise, you're still more able to see representatives of a class than distinct individuals, the future -- at least for awhile -- is foreclosed. It's entered one of those times where some grand narrative is being played out, so it's displaying extreme discretion in its allowance of the open-ended -- and in truth is delighted when where where some liberty is still permitted -- like in personal blogs -- people show themselves prominently motivated to mimic and thereby hopefully a bit partake of, their heroes. During times like these Guy really is disrupting nothing in parading himself in this esteemed contest for uber-smart kids, for in a sense the people he's intermixing with are -- as "Terminator 2's" Sarah Connor says -- "already dead"; those with futures, already determined. Rather, he's hoisting himself into situations where really the pressure's on -- how much harder for him to stand amongst the kids than for them to stand amongst each other, being a prune intermixing himself amongst grapes -- being a prune loathed not just by the grapes but by the whole wine industry for spoiling the year's vintages. He's remaining calm amongst jeering and even better than that, something that is actually hard to do when you can't imagine yourself backed by peoples-who-actually-matter's approval for you -- something that is occurring when liberals imagine themselves frustrating pleb beauty pageants and, for that matter, with terrorists undertaking their attacks, who believe their mothers couldn't love them more for their sacrifice. You know society is expecting you to stay quiet, and you're keeping faith with yourself, seeing yourself demonstrably keeping faith with yourself -- and this would feel great. The world might be foreclosed but your own future isn't playing out that way: a small flash of light others might be attracted to.
Don't think so? Think being an adult amongst kids will naturally make you an "expert player" amongst beginners? Not if the world is against you -- as it is with Guy. For then this bit from "Step Brothers" will more likely be the humiliation you'll experience, an older guy being shown he's still afraid of the whopping a twelve year old could afflict upon you -- how could you live ever after knowing that?:
Actually, I'm lying a bit in that Guy is operating under a sanction with some considerable credibility right now -- the older white man who's heading the "Spelling B" is the abandoning father he's revenging himself upon, only you don't know this at the beginning. I actually am editing this out of my remembrance of the film as well, not only because it's obvious the father is hoisted as the ostensible main concern to make it so that when the film humiliates castrating women it can pretended as just aberrant fun kept along the way rather than where the film's focus really lies, but because it only inspires when you imagine him in a sense time-travelling back to his past and patching into his lifeline a successful besting of academic testing rather than having once been discouraged and defined by it. His victory, doing a lot for him, however invisible it might be to everyone else, and unappreciated. Those who find people like that interesting, those demonstrating private realizations / victories invisible to and incommensurable with everyone else -- like this film's Jenny Widgeon, played by Kathryn Hahn -- and "Groundhog Day's" Rita, played by Andie McDowell -- are interesting too. They don't so much go for losers as are attracted to the open way.