1 Double Jeopardy
A don’t-get-mad-get-even thriller of such staggering idiocy and contrivance that its vengeance seems to be directed mostly against the art of storytelling. As a woman who is wrongly convicted of killing her husband, and can therefore now kill him for real (yeah, right), Ashley Judd steers a car while handcuffed to the door, yet she can’t think to phone an attorney in jail. It’s about time a movie proved that women’s taste can be as awful as men’s.
2 Happy, Texas
You know you’ve arrived at the ninth circle of indie hell when a movie that looks like it’s trying to be a bad high-concept comedy from the mid-’80s becomes the Miramax/Sundance ”discovery” of the year. The tale of two shuffling convicts in Texas who pretend to be gay beauty-pageant directors (this is so they won’t attract attention?), Happy, Texas is about as spontaneous in its humor as a Mike Ovitz board meeting.
3 Wild Wild West
Everything that’s wrong with summer movies rolled into one chaotic, gizmoid package. In this broken-down theme park, director Barry ”Wide Angle” Sonnenfeld keeps throwing things at you (whirling blades! a giant Erector-set spider!), and there’s nothing holding it all together but the Old West cliches that were parodied to death on bad sitcoms 30 years ago. Greasing the screen with attitude, Will Smith suddenly looks less like the king of July 4th than the prince of self-satisfaction.
4 Rosetta/The City (La Ciudad)
The Last Marxist Movies. Or maybe just the worst. Rosetta, a grindingly monotonous (excuse me, I mean ”austere”) portrait of economic despair, follows a sullen young misfit in Belgium who can’t hold a job because she’s, well, a pill. Yet the movie insists on sanctifying her self-destruction. (It should come with a warning label: ”Don’t try this in your own workplace.”) The monosyllabic La Ciudad portrays the lives of Latin-American immigrants in Manhattan with all the dramatic force of a washed-out fresco. It’s not neorealism; it’s neo-tedium.
5 Teaching Mrs. Tingle
Don’t scream for us, Kevin Williamson. The overworked John Hughes of the late ’90s flames out with a plastic demagogic teen murder comedy that makes you want to kill — or, at least, teach — everyone on screen.