The last time Will Smith teamed up with director Barry Sonnenfeld, the funny and original Men in Black was created. This time, they've tried to make a second Hollywood Blockbuster, Wild Wild West, also starring Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh and Salma Hayek. Wild Wild West is based on the television western (which I have never seen), but this movie is definitely not a western. In fact, Wild Wild West seemed to struggle with its genre; in some parts, it was western, in others, it was sci-fi, in some scenes, it was comical, in other scenes, it wasn't. So does Wild Wild West live up to the hype?
Let's start with the characters: Jim West is played by Will Smith, who, of course, is the slick, nonchalant hero of the movie. Unfortunately, Will Smith's one-liners cannot compare to those in Men in Black, and definitely not to his sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." He had some, but not many, and others had already been used.
Kevin Kline is Artemus Gordon, a brilliant US Marshal who makes a bunch of crazy contraptions to bide the time. Kline is very successful in the role and was a good person to fit the role. Kenneth Branagh plays the leg-less (literally) villain with a psychotic but somewhat lackluster performance. Thirdly, Salma Hayek plays some girl who basically is along for the ride, but she hardly gets a chance to prove herself. She starts out shaky but improves as the film goes along, but her character is so shallow and stereotype she has no where to go but down.
The big problem with Wild Wild West, as mentioned before, is its identity problem. This movie would have been much more enjoyable if it had been a straight, comedy western throughout; instead, it was a half-serious sci-fi movie with a western setting and comical interludes. A whole army is plowed down by the bad guy's inventions, Jim West pushes people to their deaths, hangs them, and so forth, yet, by judging from the previews, they were attempting comedy. And the scene where Will Smith is dressed up as a woman: Was that supposed to be funny? I thought it was stupid.
Wild Wild West is a very flawed movie. If it had been all comedy and all western, it would have been good, but it wasn't. It was a mix of several different genres and Wild Wild West definitely doesn't cut it. There are some high points to the movie (like the razor disc scene) and there are some really funny things, but the majority of the movie is a cluttered and stupid.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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