|WILD WILD WEST (1999)|
|"Mr. West, not every situation requires your patented approach of shoot first, shoot later, shoot some more and then when everybody's dead try to ask a question or two."|
|Time: 107 mins.|
Being a big fan of the original TV show, I was very excited when I heard they were bringing this classic cowboy adventure series to the big screen. Though I generally like Will Smith, I was more than a little concerned when they cast him as the sexy, swashbuckling Jim West. Granted he can fill a pair of tight jeans just as well as Robert Conrad, but Smith is more of a straight-up action star. I wasn't sure he could handle the more subtle aspects to the part. I needn't have worried because there is nothing remotely understated about this film. Which isn't to say that the original series was a study in class and decorum, but this film starts over-the-top and cranks it up from there.
Smith and Kline, who plays Artemus Gordon, a master of disguise, seem to take the outrageousness in stride, not a good thing as far as I'm concerned. I happen to think that Barry Sonnenfeld is a wonderfully talented visual director, but man does he need to learn a thing or to about story and script development. The plot is so thin as to be virtually non-existant. It's obvious that all the cash was thrown into the art direction and special effects. The actors are mere props to be manipulated into crazy scenarios, apparently the more ludicrous the better. The attempts at humor Kline dressed as a prostitute, Smith instructing him on how womens' breasts really feel are hit and miss. Maybe some people found their antics funny, but I'm not sure who those people would be.
The gist of the story is that Branagh's character, Doctor Loveless, whom everyone thought was dead, is threatening to take over the United States in retribution for the atrocities he suffered during the Civil War. He's kidnapped the top scientists in the country to build something that will virtually leave him no opposition to the coup. What they build is the stupidest thing I have ever seen and, I might add, I believe fairly impossible to create at that time in history. I'm not ruining anything by saying that's it's a giant metal spider, because that fact was given away in the trailer. Yes, it might be somewhat visually interesting to have a giant spider crawling over the western landscape. It's definitely different, but that doesn't make it right.
I'm so disappointed in this film since I'm a big fan of Sonnenfeld's last picture MEN IN BLACK. MIB was a film that could've really gone wrong at so many different points, but he managed to create a fresh, interesting, funny story amid all the cool effects. That does not happen here. Smith is as charming as ever, but even he can't save this plot and dialogue. Kline's talent is completely wasted, though he tries to be intelligent and funny. They definitely have good chemistry, they just don't have anything great to showcase it. Hayek is completely wasted. She has never been more than merely set dressing than in this movie. There's no reason at all for her presence, since she doesn't become the love interest of either man, nor contributes to the rescue of the nation. All I can say for Branagh is I guess he was REALLY tired of doing Shakespeare because his part is so beneath him as an actor. I can't think of any other reason that would entice him to take this horrible role. He's got metal spider-like legs for gods sake. How he could read that script, see that scene and think "this'll be a good career move" is beyond me.
The only good thing about the whole experience was that I watched it on HBO for free. I seriously would have demanded my money back otherwise. I don't know why anyone would want to watch this movie, unless they're big fans of Smith. This certainly isn't going to end his career, but it sure doesn't help. WILD WILD WEST is a prime example of a summer movie rushed to the screen to make a date gone horribly wrong. It's a terrific waste of money and talent. It has some enjoyable moments, but not enough to make it a worthwhile cinema experience.