Focus Features
PEOPLE Movie Critic
March 14, 2014 02:05 PM

Jason Bateman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Aaron Paul all hit theaters with new movies this weekend, but only one of them is really worth the ticket.

Before you head out for the cinema, check out our recommendations below for what to catch and what to skip.

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Bad Words

Bad Words turns out to be a sure-footed step into multi-hyphenate territory for Jason Bateman, even if his boldest directorial choice was casting himself as the worst person in the world.

Bateman stars as Guy Trilby, an alleged adult who enters the Golden Quill national spelling bee alongside a bunch of pre-pubescent competitors. Why would a grown man want to battle tiny brainiacs (and enrage their parents in the process)? That’s an excellent question, and no one but Guy has an answer – not even his sponsor, reporter Jenny Widgeon (Kathryn Hahn), who can’t convince Guy to talk but can get him to drop trou for horribly ill-advised hookups.

Let me assure you, Guy is a rare species of cretin. He doesn’t just outspell the kids, he turns each round of competition into psychological warfare, destroying any meager shreds of self-esteem they might have possessed. He also does a fair job of humiliating the Quill’s chief administrator, Dr. Deagan (Allison Janney), who’s probably plotting Guy’s death behind her tight smile. In fact, Guy’s only ally might be 10-year-old contestant Chaitanya (Rohan Chand), an innocent in the ways of the world but a wicked opponent on the battlefield. Somehow, they form a bond.

If you have any qualms about watching children engage in felonies, then Bad Words might not be your jam. Guy and Chaitanya glory in a run of illicit behavior, some of which actually is disturbing. (Light prostitution, anyone? No?) However, that edginess keeps the film from plowing into clichés, saving Guy from anything like true redemption. As it happens, he does have his reasons for destroying the dreams of small children. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a world-class ass.

Skip that


Jake Gyllenhaal does double duty as professor Adam and actor Anthony in this moodily intriguing but ultimately misguided thriller from Prisoners director Denis Villeneuve. While watching a movie one night, Adam notices Anthony in the background of a scene, struck by the realization that he has a doppelgänger. He pursues his double, finding out where he lives and trying to initiate an introduction. Only Anthony turns out to be far more than Adam can handle.

That’s about when Enemy goes off the rails, as Adam begins to behave inanely, while Anthony exploits their physical similarity for his own twisted reasons. Please don’t sit through the film hoping for some sort of explanation as to why or how these two can be such exact copies – down to the same scars – because you won’t get one. Instead, Villeneuve delivers a story shrouded in intrigue and mystery – one that, for all its psychosexual kinks, is firmly unsatisfying.

You’re Too Smart to Even Contemplate Seeing This

Need for Speed

It’s not that Speed is based on a video game that makes it so unbearably dumb. It’s that it never aspires to logic, character development or narrative cohesion – y’know, the stuff that would make it a movie.

The action centers around aspiring racecar driver Tobey (Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, whom I’ll compliment by calling miscast), owner of his late father’s body shop. Even though Tobey and his friends are so broke that they can’t afford the mortgage on the shop, they still manage to swing a plane, multiple tricked-out vehicles and some of the finest auto technology you’ve ever seen in civilian hands. They also have one other thing: a thirst for vengeance after Tobey is double-crossed by sniveling rich creep Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper).

The Scooby kids get their chance when manic gearhead Monarch (Michael Keaton) hosts an underground race in California, setting off a Cannonball Run for the competitors, including Dino and Tobey. Multiple police departments will be in on the chase, countless laws will be broken, and – unlike in the Fast and Furious movies many an innocent bystander will be conspicuously endangered (including a bus full of children), all in the name of stunts that are either ridiculous or just boring.

The whole enterprise is pointless and silly. If you’re looking for great racing action, pick up the DVD of Rush. At least that film assumes its audience is of functioning intelligence.

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