Wild Wild West
Rating -

Action/Western (US); 1999; Rated PG-13; 107 Minutes


Will Smith: James West
Kevin Kline: Artemus Gordon
Kenneth Branagh: Dr. Loveless
Salma Hayek: Rita

Produced by Tracy Glaser, Barry Josephson , Kim LeMasters, Jon Peters, Graham Place, Joel Simon, Chris Soldo, Barry Sonnenfeld and Bill Todman Jr.; Directed by Barry Sonnenfield; Screenwritten by S.S. Wilson, Brent Maddock, Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman

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Written by DAVID KEYES

The only thing worse than seeing horrible movies is witnessing audiences enjoying them. Oftentimes you sit there with a dazed expression, feeling disheartened by the fact that human beings can actually admire such trash. We frequently asks ourselves, "have these people suffered much brain damage?" If that is the case, then these kinds of viewers apparently have a lot in common with the filmmakers. At least, that seems to be the problem here with "Wild Wild West," a film which audiences enjoyed, and proves that someone behind the camera was definitely missing a few brain cells when the idea was brought up. Here is a movie that defies decency and competence. But what did you expect from a picture in which Will Smith explains that 'redneck' means 'power,' and that beating a woman's breasts like a drum is an African way of communicating?

If I were writing an essay on "what not to do when making movies," half of my references would be directed here, to a movie that practically violates every cinematic rule in existence. Need examples? Try these on for size:

    *Do not use hand-held cameras when following a chase through a thicket of trees. Images become jumbled, fuzzy, and fragmented beyond comprehension.

    *When the main character is seen naked, do not emphasize on the crotch area so much. People seem to always stare at it like they've never seen one before.

    *Stereotypes are not funny. Do not include them when the main character is African American.

    *If you are going to dress Kevin Kline up in drag, make sure he doesn't look like a real woman.

    *Two people shouldn't have a physical encounter inside a wooden water tower, especially when the horse below goes wacko and breaks one of the leg supports.

    *If a movie uses a single line more than three times in the same scene, it's time for a few rewrites.

    *When someone asks "can I ask you a question?", don't end the scene with a mechanical spider riding off into the sunset. Give the guy a chance to ask the question.

    *Stop degrading Salma Hayek. It's bad enough she wears hardly anything but lingerie during her time on screen, but it's worse when we see the back of her sleeping outfit wide open, revealing attire that distracts Mr. West and Artemus Gordon from their plans.

    *It is pointless to remove Kenneth Brannagh's legs with special effects. A villain like this can be just as convincing and effective if he was able to walk.

    *The belief that someone who has his head chopped off imprints his final memory in the back of his eye is nonsense. Furthermore, don't expect me to believe that, if you open up his skull and project his eyes onto a canvas, you are going to get a clear picture.

    *Never let Will Smith get lost in the desert. Watching him roast another lizard and then chomping down on it would be unbearable.

    *If there is such a place called Spider Canyon, make sure there are real spiders there.

    *Enough already with the jokes of body fluids. There is a scene in the movie when someone tilts his megaphone to the floor, clears his throat, and mucus drains through his ear.

    *When Kevin Kline has no mustache in a film intended to be a comedy, then chances are the movie isn't very funny.

    *Mechanical spiders the size of apartment complexes are impossible creations for the 1870s. A filmmaker must be really brave if he expects anyone to believe such a thing could ever exist at that time period.

I didn't want to review this movie. It is an obnoxious, sexist, crude, disgusting, and dead-in-the-water series of lame actions and insipid character situations that make last year's pathetic "Armageddon" seem worth all the hype. And because we critics think of it that way, that will ensure the film's financial success, and the continuing screen popularity of Will Smith. Even though every one of his movies has been a labored conceit of boredom and stupidity, he draws in audiences like crazy. There are even people who call him "the king of Independence Day weekend." Undoubtedly, "Wild Wild West" carries the box office potential of "Men In Black" and "Independence Day," simply because of his presence. That factor alone will perhaps ensure him success with any movie studio in need of financial success.

Stunned by the lame action sequences and unfunny jokes, I was instantly reminded of Hollywood's old westerns, in which guns were drawn faster then they were shot, sheriffs kept their sharp eyes on criminals, poker was big and everyone was money-hungry. Imagine what a real cowboy would have thought if he had seen a large mechanical spider crawling his way.

1999, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org. Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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