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Wild Wild West

movie reviewmovie review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Wild Wild West

Starring: Will Smith, Kevin Kline
Director: Barry Sonenfeld
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 107 Minutes
Release Date: June 1999
Genres: Action, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Western, Comedy


*Also starring: Kenneth Branagh, Salma Hayek, Robert Conrad, Musetta Vander, Ted Levine



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Review by Walter Frith
2½ stars out of 4

'Wild Wild West' saturates the screen with intense silliness and deliberately attempts to be the ultimate summer movie. Noisy, filled with special effects, and full of in jokes from other aspects of pop culture, the film begins rather poorly but picks up steam (including using a train as a major prop) and has a villain as pleasing and as charismatic as most seen in the movies in a very long time. Barry Sonnenfeld injects his jack-in-the-box style direction and his film wobbles with a dizziness that works almost as well here as it did in his 1997 triumph, 'Men in Black'. Much of 'Men in Black' will become dated in the years to come, particularly the scene where the audience plays witness to the secret observation room and on a giant projection screen they observe many celebrities on Earth whom we discover in an irreverent and joking way that they are actually aliens. Borrowing from many cheesy and low budget sci-fi movies from years gone by, Barry Sonnenfeld used them in 'MIB' and uses many metaphors from classic stereotyped westerns to do the same in 'Wild Wild West'.

Will Smith (James T. West) and Kevin Kline (Artemus Gordon) star as two federal agents in post Civil war America, around 1870, who team up for President Grant (also played by Kline and an in joke from 1993's 'Dave' where Kline played a regular guy and a fictional U.S. president) to find out who is kidnapping scientists involving a possible plot to bring down the government. Their investigation takes them to New Orleans where they come in contact with Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh). Loveless is a former member of the confederacy who wants revenge on the Union after losing his legs in the war and is forced to get around in a high tech (for its time) wheelchair. Loveless' symbol (like the Riddler's question mark) is the spider. It's on Loveless' flag, other personal belongings, and he sends a few of the creatures with a gift for the president enclosed in glass. Dressed in dark clothing with a beard trimmed to give you the true impression of evil, Branagh's villain steals the show as many villains do on many occasions at the movies. He wants to overthrow the U.S. government and give the land back (for a fee, of course) to Great Britain, France, Spain, Mexico and a couple of others.

Joining West and Gordon in their adventure is Rtia Escobar (Salma Hayek), who claims to be the daughter of one of the scientists kidnapped and wants to tag along in the quest to find her father. Naturally, both men take a shine to her and vie for her affections. Other members of the cast include M. Emmet Walsh and Ted Levine.

It's entirely possible to dislike 'Wild Wild West' for all the right reasons. There is little chemistry between its two leads, the plot is riddled with uneven qualities, contrivances and many scenes of convoluted logic. Aside from this (for me at least) is the feeling of a guilty pleasure. You know, one of those films you hate to admit you like but you find that the movie works for you and you alone. This is the way the film struck me.

Will Smith articulates himself quite well this time. Unlike his role in 'Men in Black' where his character was a little wet behind the ears in his training by the elder Tommy Lee Jones as an agent chasing aliens, Smith is completely cool and in charge as Jim West. Kevin Kline plays his role in the manner of an aristocrat. Sort of like an American Dr. Watson, full of dapper expressions in a surprisingly cool manner. The screenplay by Brent Maddock, Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman and S.S. Wilson makes you wonder why it took four people to write it because in a film where special effects take over in such an obvious way, this seems to be a puzzle. One thing I'm almost certain of is that for fans of the western genre who are purists, this film isn't for them. It's too high tech for its era to please fans of the western but is still a good ride full of mindless fun for the rest of us.

OUT OF 5 > * * * 1/2

Visit FILM FOLLOW-UP by Walter Frith http://www.cgocable.net/~wfrith/movies.htm

Copyright 2000 Walter Frith

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