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Wild Wild West

Reviewed By Ryan Arthur
Posted 07/07/99 03:01:55

"If there's a perfect movie to get bitchslapped, it's this one."
1 stars (Sucks)

The jokes fall flat. The action is uninspiring. The acting ranges from wooden to outright hammy, and you keep waiting to be put out of your misery. Not even the sight of Salma Hayek's ass will make you want to sit through the whole thing. I'll say it now: I hated this movie more than Batman & Robin.

The opening credits evoke the original Wild Wild West series. Seems like the theme song has been revised a bit. It's flashy, it's catchy, my interest had been piqued. And as I sat there, I thought to myself, "hey, this may not suck after all."

I've got to learn not to be so optimistic.

Wild Wild West is a blank check movie. It's a movie where the studio (Warner Brothers, in this case, no strangers to movies that favor style over substance) saw the success of director Barry Sonnenfeld and Mr. Fourth-Of-July himself, Will Smith, and basically handed them a blank check. You can see the meeting: "Here, take our money, and do whatever the hell you want." It shows. Wild Wild West is less a movie, and more like several movies.

Action. Buddy picture. Comedy. TV show remake. James Bond homage. Sci-fi. Western. Camp. Blazing Saddles ripoff. Wild Wild West is all of these things, and more, and it's still a pain to sit through, because it does none of those things very well at all.

Will Smith can't decide to play Jim West straight or for laughs. The opening sequences portray him as a sort of goof, complete with making absurd kissy-faces in the air towards the woman he's with while he's secretly spying on the bad guys. Like the naked woman in the water tank with him isn't gonna notice. Then, he turns to being all business. Anyone who starts to say the "n" word immediately gets punched in the mouth. Smith then tries the suave ladies man approach, then the gruff cowboy, then the all-out action hero, then a guy in drag.

Sigh.

I like Will Smith. I really do. I'd like to see more stuff like his turn in Six Degrees Of Separation. But this was so wrong for him. Likewise Kevin Kline. A normally gifted comedic actor, Kline's reduced to sidekick. As Artemus Gordon, he gets to play kooky inventor. Too bad it's all so low key. He looks so bored. He's got no chemistry with Smith, a vital ingredient to the whole buddy comedy genre. They barely look at each other.

And Kenneth Branagh?

Playing what could've been the plum role of Dr. Arliss Loveless, Branagh sports the Lieutenant Dan "I ain't got no legs" look and a accent borrowed heavily from Foghorn Leghorn, and he chews scenery like it's the toughest steak in the world. Stow it, Doc. He's not menacing, he's not evil, he's a cartoon in a wheelchair.

The plot? Well, there's some business of Loveless taking President Ulysses S. Grant (played, for whatever reason, by Kline again) hostage and reclaiming the U.S. With a giant mechanical spider. How's it powered? When was it built? Why is it that a crowd of people can't see it, but when the Prez turns around and sees it, then people start to run?

The movie doesn't answer these questions, and I'm not even gonna try.

The look of the movie is awfully crisp for a western. There's a lot of dust on the actors, but everything else looks mighty clean. That's what's good here: the look. Sets, costuming, all top notch. But it's not enough to make you forget enough wooden acting to consider changing the movie's title to Wild Wild Westworld, or the horrible sight of Will Smith (and Kline, for that matter) in drag. The gadgets are nifty and horribly out of place. It tries to be Men In Black Hats 130 Years Ago. The wit and humor of MIB (and all of Sonnenfeld's other previous efforts) is replaced with lame one-liners (Kline's Gordon, upon inventing a flying machine, "I'm thinking of calling it..Air Gordon"). It makes you want to drink enough artificially butter flavored popcorn topping to give you an instantaneous heart attack (or multiple heart attacks, or both).

Not even lovely Salma Hayek, complete with heaving cleavage and two - count 'em, two - shots of her bare butt, can make the movie watchable.

It's an action movie (and I use that term loosely) where the action sequences are interspersed with lenghty stretches of bad sitcom-caliber writing.

Will this movie make money? Possibly. Even Batman & Robin broke $100 million domestic. But this movie, like Batman & Robin, and like last year's The Avengers, is a dud on all fronts.

I'd sit through Batman & Robin AND Speed 2 before I'd watch this again.

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