Wild Wild West (1999)

Action, Western, Comedy, Sci-Fi
Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Salma Hayek
The two best hired guns in the West must save President Grant from the clutches of a 19th century inventor-villain.
Bombastic, manic, and largely laugh-free, Wild Wild West is a bizarre misfire in which greater care was lavished upon the special effects than on the script.
  • Warner Bros. Pictures Company:
  • PG-13 Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 30 Jun 1999 Released:
  • 30 Nov 1999 DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:

All subtitles:



Trailer:

It just isn't good5/10

It's that time of year. The time when Hollywood trots out it's worst of the summer. You know the drill. There's a "Godzilla" every year, somebody has to be it. "Wild Wild West" clenches the title hands down this summer, and we still have eight weeks to go!

The Will Smith phenomenon has now entered it's third phase: overwhelming ego project. Teaming with his "Men In Black" director Barry Sonnenfeld, Smith has finally teetered over the edge and released an outright mess. A film that will hang in the halls of all time bad event flicks. Should we blame Smith? I think so. "Men In Black" and "Independence Day" were gigantic hits, they even call the 4th of July "Big Willie Weekend" due to these successes. I submit that these films were hits due to the films themselves, the writing, acting, directing, and not just because of Smith. "West" is finally the film that rests on Smith's comedic shoulders alone. The truth shines through clearly. Not everything Will Smith does is funny.

Based in the television show running from 1965-1970, the simple plot tells the tale of a Civil War era federal marshal James West (Smith), who must team up with a weapons expert (Kevin Kline, at his most painfully unfunny) to thwart the evil plans of the villain, and legless, Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh). Along for the ride is a giant mechanical tarantula, President Grant, and the stunning, gorgeous, lovely, and just plain old hot Salma Hayek. The plot is just a simple excuse to push the characters through endless scenes that give birth to no laughs at all. Scenes that make the audience gringe with fear, as if something wrong is with them. Fear not my good people, these are professionals up on screen, and they blew it.

The screenplay, credited to FOUR writers, has the damnedest time to make any of the jokes funny. You would not believe just how far the cast goes to make this limp material work. It's embarrassing to watch, and even more embarrassing for the actors. There is not one funny moment in the film, not even a courtesy laugh for the attempt. Dead silence. I also disapprove of the attempt to squeeze racial jokes into the mix. Yes, Will Smith is African-American, but do we need to call attention to it every five minutes? The movie would've been better served had it left the race issue alone and just played up the potential fun of the concept.

Will Smith is simply miscast as the hero. He's an amiable actor who's proven himself with stronger material. This film clearly shows just how paper thin the Smith charm can be. While Kevin Kline tries but fails as well, it's really Hayek's role that's a
mystery. She's barely in the film, and when her character is explained, you come to realize that she's not apart of the story at all. Hayek has always been a fun performer with winning personality. All this movie asks of her is to be the butt (literally) of a few jokes and keep the cleavage coming. A shameful waste of talent.

Director Sonnenfeld has also been at the helm of better pictures ("Get Shorty"), but for some reason I have yet to see a truly great film directed by him. There always seems to be a spark missing from the action, like a better, funnier film was in there somewhere but he can't find it. Relying in great amounts on special effects and the considerable use of easy-to-spot green screen shots, the typical Sonnenfeld camera work is either buried under all the mayhem or just not inventive when the attempt is actually made. This is a very top-heavy production with little chance to breathe. But Sonnenfeld made this choice, he must be held accountable for it.

The movie has been through many edits, and this shows with wildly out of tune continuity and many unexplained plot twists. Also grating on the brain is Elmer Bernstein's annoying and featherweight musical score. While we have Warner Brothers shamefully trotting out it's "We pray it's as big as the 'Men In Black'" Will Smith rap tune, Bernstein provides a flat score that serves no purpose to enliven the film. The cinematography is also without color, and the catering probably sucked too.

"Wild Wild West" is the product of zero imagination. A lifeless summer film that seems to stick out even more in this unusually good movie season. I am always wary of comic westerns, and this film seals that envelope. If this is what 160 million buys you? I'll take the 3 million "South Park" any day.------------ 0
Just don't take it seriously8/10

Wow, there are a lot of bad votes for this movie here. I thought it was great. It's a Will Smith / Barry Sonnenfeld movie. You can't take it seriously. The humor is perfectly subtle and dry at times, and over the top at others. The storyline is only there to give opportunities for the jokes.

If you want a serious western, try The Magnificent Seven (or the original, 7 Samurai), Hombre, or some other classic. If you want a light-hearted evening, rent this. Probably don't buy it, but rent it.

For some reason it says that my review has to be more than 10 lines, so I'm throwing this in to make it work. Really a review for a movie like this doesn't need to be this long, but I guess I'll just comply.
Moron Director Alert!!1/10
Lets take a cult classic and make as stupid idiotic movie as you could possibly make and cast it with actors COMPLETELY unsuited for the parts. Kevin Kline, Will Smith, and Kenneth Branaugh should all shoot their agents. Sure they probably picked up a nice paycheck for this crap but can you ever live down being associated with such a "Wanker" project? For a television series the Wild Wild West was well done for its time and had a lot of interesting plots and characters. What possessed the creators of this movie vomit to trash the Wild Wild West. Hopefully someone will come along and make a serious movie on the television series. Sad to see these SCUM come along and try to make a cheap buck on the creative efforts of others and destroying their original vision. I always wondered how Robert Conrad could go alone with this junk. Then I read that he didn't. He picked up the Razzie Awards as a protest.
Lame bloated blockbuster5/10

`Wild Wild West' joins an increasingly long list of big bloated blockbusters, movies made for no possible reason beyond grabbing a quick summer buck yet which, ironically, by their very cynical and slapdash nature, utterly fail to connect with even the least demanding of audiences. The result is a multi-multi-million dollar debacle that leaves studios searching for answers and audiences shell-shocked into seeking out their entertainment along the more audacious pathway of off-Hollywood, independent filmmaking – the single positive outcome of these dull, empty enterprises.

`Wild Wild West,' like so many films before it, looks to the relics of television's bygone era for inspiration – as sad a comment as any on the dismal state of current movie creativity. As one not familiar with the original series, I cannot say what justice, or lack of justice, this homage does to its source. What is evident, judging from the results on screen, is that `Wild Wild West' is, as with most current blockbusters, top-heavy with special effects and as weak in the nether limbs as its legless villain. Straight Westerns being hopelessly out of fashion, especially for a special effects-driven summertime extravaganza, the filmmakers obviously felt that what was needed was a tongue-in-cheek approach to the material, resulting in a bizarre, but completely unfunny amalgam of fantasy and science-fiction gilded onto a Western format. The disparate styles simply fight against each other, leaving no one in the audience - neither Western nor science-fiction fans - satisfied.

The alleged plot involves the attempts by James West (Will Smith) and Artemis Gordon (Kevin Kline) to foil an evil Confederate inventor's plan to kidnap all the world's most brilliant scientists and, ultimately, terrorize the Union and President Grant into submission. This he attempts to do by creating a giant mechanized spider which is, obviously, a last ditch, desperate attempt on the part of the filmmakers to fulfill the seemingly insatiable demands of the modern audience to be dazzled by impressive special effects, no matter how inappropriate they appear in context. Here, though, the miscalculation is fatal because even the audience is wise enough to know when it is being had. Kline and Smith never achieve a palpable rapport despite the usual abundance of lame wise cracks and sarcastic asides designed to make them `hip' and `trendy' – two qualities incongruous to the setting, which again shows the lack of real commitment to the spirit of the project. There is exactly one clever moment in the film – an astonishingly creative homage to the old RCA logo – that hints at what might have been had the moviemakers been willing to really let loose their anarchic imaginations and aimed for something truly sophisticated rather than simply pasting together a series of confused, poorly written blackout sketches.

Incidentally, even some of the expensive special effects come across as surprisingly crude, especially many of the shots utilizing rear-screen projection. Hence, this film strikes out even in the one ballpark in which it might have stood a chance of emerging victorious.

Don't the people making these movies LIKE the original shows?1/10
I won't add more insults -- others here have done that well enough. This movie is godawful. But I will point out two areas that seem to be staples of bad movie remakes of beloved old TV shows. First, how about getting someone to write/direct that actually liked and understood the original? That person would understand that the West-Gordon relationship was the core. In a sense, West and Gordon complimented each other to make a slick, functional crime-fighting machine: West handled the action and romance, and Gordon took care of the thinking, deception, and humor (disguises). This was a well-used TV convention -- think the Kirk-Spock-McCoy triad in Star Trek, or the great contrasty chemistry between Bill Cosby and Robert Culp in I Spy. Add a lovable villain to the mix (not an offensive atrocity like the film-Loveless) and you've got a crazy, tongue-in-cheek action classic. The filmmakers here seemingly did not know or care about the fundamentals of the original show. Not that this is necessarily a problem, but then why bother resurrecting the premise in the first place? Why not just make Will Smith a different wild west troubleshooter? The Mission Impossible franchise has the same problem.

Second, why all the emphasis on showing the principals getting to know each other? I know -- because it eats up 30% of the script, and creates conflict. But the conflict should be between West and the villain. Jim and Artie should just BE. The TV show didn't bother explaining how West met and knew Gordon, any more than Barney Miller, Mission Impossible, or 24 found it necessary to have all the main characters meet and learn to work together. They were a team with a job to do. Audiences understand this concept; having a trumped-up plot about how the heroes meet and overcome their differences is a hackneyed device that only exposes the script weaknesses present. See the film version of Dragnet (a better film, though) for another example of this unfortunate trend.

Finally, a comment on the "race" issue. Inserting content that justifies Smith-West's skin color is no more necessary than explaining Henry V's skin color when Laurence Fishburne or Andre Braugher play him on stage. Indeed, ignoring Smith's race in a movie like this one would help us all look past such issues. If a blond actor had portrayed West, nobody would have suggested a plot that explains his Norwegian background! He just would have been West, and that would be that. But color-blind casting requires courage, and could conceivably cut into the film's bottom line. So, not in this spineless script.

I seldom get mad at movies I don't like. Even The Avengers didn't anger me, though it was possibly even worse than this one. This one ticked me off REAL good. Buy the original series on DVD instead, and see how it's done right.