Wild Wild West (1999) starring Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Salma Hayek, M. Emmet Walsh, Ted Levine directed by Barry Sonnenfield Movie Review

Wild Wild West (1999)   2/52/52/52/52/5

Kevin Kline and Will Smith in Wild Wild West (1999)

Will's Not So Wicki-wicki Wild Wild West

Can you imagine Vanilla Ice playing the Lone Range or Eminem playing Rooster Cogburn, it just doesn't work as is the case when one time rapper, now major movie star, Will Smith dons the Stetson and spurs for the much misguided "Wild Wild West". It's not all Will Smith's fault, although I am sure he would consider "Wild Wild West" a bit of a turkey in his impressive portfolio of movies, but the attempted comedy crossover of western and sci-fi is at its best misguided at its worst plain miserable.

When the world's best scientists all go missing President U.S. Grant decides to call in his two best men Capt. James West (Will Smith - Enemy of the State) and U.S. Marshal Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline - In & Out) to get to the bottom of things. It's an uneasy partnership with West being a shoot first shoot later cowboy whilst Grant is a more calculated inventor but together they are lead first to General 'Bloodbath' McGrath (Ted Levine) and then to the dastardly Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh - The Gingerbread Man) as they discover his sinister plans to reignite the civil war.

Salma Hayek as Rita Escobar in Wild Wild West (1999)

Where do you start when it comes to "Wild Wild West" other than it tries to be too much. At its heart it's a western with a comedy streak not unlike the earlier "Maverick" but then it throws in a sci-fi element which only acts as being out of place and annoying. If this wasn't bad enough it for some reason feels influenced by the James Bond movies with Will Smith uttering "The names West, Jim West" and a cavalcade of gizmo's and gadgets to make her majesty's finest jealous. It's all too much and although not confusing makes for a convoluted mess of set piece after set piece.

Whilst the sci-fi and James Bond homage just end up a constant distraction the comedy side of "Wild Wild West" is as misguided as the movie itself with a strange fascination with sexual connotation as in an early scene when West is bathing in a water tower with an attractive lady an dmentions putting things in holes. It's all a little basic if not tawdry considering that "Wild Wild West" appears to be a movie targeting younger audiences. It's not just the sexual connotations which feel out of place and with issues over race and a whole load of lame jokes which are dragged out far longer than they ever were funny it just doesn't raise the laughs, well not in the right places anyway.

As for the actual storyline well it becomes insignificant and cliche with a stereotypical bad guy who would be more at home in a James Bond movie set on a reign of tyranny with what could only be described as the wild west's version of weapons of mass destruction. But the only destruction which goes on is the movie itself which ends up being one set piece after another, all overly designed to either generate excitement or laughs but fail in their entirety. It's rare but "Wild Wild West" is one of the few movies as a reviewer which I couldn't wait to end, not because it is absolutely terrible because it has its moments, but because it's all too damn corny and as already mentioned misguided.

Matters are not helped with the central characters of Will Smith's Jim West and Kevin Kline's Artemus Gordon, who in the tradition of movies are forced to work together in an antagonistic relationship. Not that either Smith or Kline do a bad job as both do what they do best with Will Smith piling on the charm and wise cracking humour whilst Kline plays the stiffer slightly quirky even eccentric character. It's just the partnership doesn't work delivering no glimpse of tangible chemistry which even though it's an antagonistic relationship should shine through a little.

As for the rest well Salma Hayek as Rita Escobar is purely window dressing with a poorly written subplot to give meaning to her character and Kenneth Branagh, that great Shakespearean actor of both stage and screen, comes across like he is trying to mimic Gary Sinise as he plays the villain of the piece Dr. Arliss Loveless, so much so you wonder whether the part was written with Sinise in mind. The only really commendable performance although it's really the only performance to stick in your mind is that from Ted Levine who at least creates an entertaining character as General 'Bloodbath' McGrath.

What this all boils down to is that whilst "Wild Wild West" is by no means a complete and utter turkey of a movie it has to be one of the most misguided. With it trying to do too much with the strange mix of western, comedy, sci-fi and a touch of the James Bond it never manages to really deliver any of them effectively. Instead it ends up as a series of often unfunny set pieces which at least mask the unoriginal storyline.