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