Wild Wild West (1999) – Review

2 Stars

Fresh off the box office smash Men In Black director Barry Sonnenfeld and star Will Smith re-teamed for this big-screen revival of the beloved television show. All of the major creative forces behind MIB are employed here yet oddly Wild Wild West lacks everything that made the previous collaboration so amusing; namely a funny script and sense of comedic timing. Too many lame joke courtesy of a limp-dick script credited to writers S.S. Wilson, Brent Maddock, Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman lay flat on the screen to the point of actually feeling sorry for the talented actors.

The casting of African American Will Smith in the role of Jim West is an attempt by the filmmakers to suggest this update on the material is hip and in-tune with popular tastes. To that extent it works but why cast (arguably) the most famous black actor and force him to strain for laughs in an awkward sequence in which he’s forced to talk himself out of being lynched? It’s a tasteless scene that offers no laughs and proves even a man with the comedic gifts of Smith’s can’t make that situation comical.

To make matters much worse Kline seems vaguely absent in his lackadaisical portrayal of U.S. Marshal Artemus Gordon noted inventor and man of thought a sharp contrast to Smith’s action oriented approach. Kline and Smith have absolutely no chemistry and the beautiful Salma Hayek is sorely miscast as a daughter searching for her missing scientist father. Hamming it up and breathing a sense of fun into the proceedings is Kenneth Branagh playing the villainous amputee General Arliss Loveless. Branagh is a welcomed sight in this noisy, overblown and ultimately boring film. Seeing Will Smith dressed in drag and shooting fire from his fake breasts has to be a career low-point. Budgeted at $180 million dollars this was the most expensive movie produced in 1999 and one of the years biggest failures.

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Stars: Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh

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