Wild Wild West (1999) / Western-Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, sex references, and innuendo
Running Time: 107 min.
Cast: Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Salma Hayek, M. Emmet Walsh, Ted Levine, Bai Ling
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Screenplay: S.S. Wilson, Brent Maddock, Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman
Wild Wild West casts Will Smith (Enemy of the State, Men in Black) as Black gunslinger Jim West and Kevin Kline (In & Out, Consenting Adults) as genius inventor US Marshal Artemus Gordon, who try to stop a nefarious plot by bitter Confederate soldier named Arliss Loveless (Branagh, The Gingerbread Man) who lost his lower extremities in the war. Loveless exacts his revenge on the US by planning an overthrow of the government using technologically superior war machines which seemingly can't be stopped.
Fans of the television series will probably be the most disappointed by this in-name-only film version, although it's hard to believe anyone not hating it. In casting Will Smith in the title role, one knows the film is more interested in trying to be hip for the kiddies than in trying to please lovers of the small-screen show, and everything from his modern dialect to the clothes he wears shows he's still a man of the 1990s, even if he lives over a century in the past.
Outside of some impressive special effects and costumes, the film is a wasteland of ideas and a cesspool of bad humor and action. Blatant anachronisms and a twisted sense of history take what would normally be just a fantastically unbelievable film into the realm of abysmal absurdity. The normally likeable cast is wasted on a poor script and ill-conceived characterizations that make you not care one iota whether anyone will live or die by the end. Wild Wild West has absolutely no thrills or chills, and while there is definitely a modern sensibility to the entire production, the humor is of the oldest and corniest in cinema. Without question one of the worst films of 1999.
©2000 Vince Leo