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Wild Wild West
Will Smith and Kevin Kline are the duo James T. West and Artemus Gordon, the best gunfighters in the west who must save President Grant from an inventor-villian.

Starring Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh...  View more >

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Please Note: Reader Reviews are submitted by the readers of The BigScreen Cinema Guide and represent their own personal opinions regarding this movie, and do not represent the views of The BigScreen Cinema Guide, or any of its associated entities.

[--- Good ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Wild Wild West (1999)

As a boy I looked forward to "The Willd, Wild West" on Friday evenings; after a busy week of grade school, it was a cool way to begin the weekend. Even cooler were the gadgets produced by Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin) and the swagger of Jim West (Robert Conrad).

"Wild,Wild West" is the latest movie revival of a classic TV show. So for fans of the campy series of 1975-80, the origin alone makes it a must-see. As a film divorced from its thirty-something ancestor, it is just better than average. In this incarnation, Will Smith plays James West, and Kevin Kline is Artie Gordon.

One thing the movie does well is preserve the edgy friendship between West and Gordon. Just as Bob Conrad was younger than Ross Martin, Will Smith is several years' Kevin Kline's junior. In one scene they play the comic counterparts of The Defiant Ones, linked together by Dr. Loveless' deadly magnets instead of by chains. The scene is hilarious, containing the wit, timing and physical comedy of two experienced actors. Even at the end, when the new Secret Service agents are friends, there is the bite of competition between them

Premise: The world isn't safe because of the devilish Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branaugh). Cut in half in the Civil War, Loveless has resurfaced in 1869 with a plot to use his evil technology to take control of the United States, and divide it up between himself and the empires that formerly occupied North America - England, France, and Spain. An associate of Loveless', a former Confederate general called "Bloodbath" McGrath, the Butcher of Libertyville, leads the heroes to Loveless. President Grant, who commissioned West and Gordon to track down the arch-villain, is himself put in grave danger when Loveless puts to use a terrible engine of war. The machine is a Gargantuan metal spider, its legs supporting a body occupied by sophisticated furnaces and pulleys and a cockpit captained by Loveless and his vampy sidekicks.

All these elements combine to make "Wild, Wild West" into an action period-piece with very watchable special effects. Besides the tank-spider, Loveless uses an amphibious ironclad, a way-advanced wheel chair (which highlights the effects that take away Branaugh's legs), and a murderous propelled saw blade that tracks down its victims, who wear a magnetic collar. Of course Artie Gordon has his own arsenal of martial gimmicks. All of them are introduced early in the narrative, James Bond-style, and utilized later. The tamest perhaps is a pistol smaller than a Derringer; the weirdest is a human head used as a projector, with Artie discovering the last image (burned into the retinas) seen by the victim. In all, the film blends special effects quite well with the action that surrounds them.

As James West, Will Smith has been discussed as an unusual choice. (George Clooney was first offered the role, with Smith as Artemus Gordon.) Because of his versatility, though, Smith pulls it off. He is fast-talking and -punching, and what adds an interesting dimension to his situation is the script's use of racial humor. I have not yet decided if the film makes too much mention of Smith's race, but I admire Smith and director Barry Sonnenfeld, as well as the screenwriting team, for attempting this risk. A couple of times, the African-American James West uses Stepin Fetchit stereotypes, before resorting to his considerable skills, to escape tricky situations. One scene, when a mob tries to lynch West for tapping a woman's breasts, falls far short of Cleavon Little in "Blazing Saddles." It's engaging, though, when West and Loveless exchange hateful puns, West attacked for being black, and Loveless for being "half a man."

Kevin Kline delivers another seamless performance, getting into the part of Artie Gordon with good humor. A master of disguise, inventor of ingenious weaponry, factotum of the highest order, Gordon is very likable, and Kline's comic sense puts Gordon just the right amount over-the-top. At various times this sharp U. S. marshal masquerades as a buxom woman and President Grant. (After 'Dave', it's the second flick that's given Kline a chance to play a president and his double!)

Salma Hayek plays Rita Escobar, who appears first as a caged playmate of Loveless'. After Gordon liberates her, Rita reveals she is the daughter of one the scientists kidnapped by Loveless to design and build the monster spider. She accompanies the two agents throughout most of their hi-jinx. Though Hayek is a solid actress and easy to look at, she is used mainly for decoration here, her function to cause conflict between potential boyfriends West and Gordon.

In smaller roles, Ted Levine plays a grimy, disgusting, head-injured General McGrath. M. Emmet Walsh plays a cagey train engineer who transports the agents about on "The Wanderer,"a train loaded with one-of-a-kind gimmickry. Walsh has been around films and television a long time, and has a memorable character actor face; his performance is strong here, especially in his reactions to double-entendres exchanged by West and Gordon.

By now Barry Sonnenfeld has a famous relationship with Will Smith; he's even called Smith a 'co-director.' Sonnenfeld controls the pace well, except many scenes follow each other too quickly, editor Jim Miller relying too much on two-second establishing shots.

Set decoration is marvelous, with each interior showing a Victorian rococo style. Loveless' wheelchair, for instance, sports the metal scrollwork seen atop the fancy smokestacks of riverboats. Walls of saloons and the White House are equally intricate. The exteriors rely on the breath-taking vistas of the West - one half of the meaning of the title, after all.

A shortcoming is that the plot is a bit too straight-forward. It seems to lack the complications, both in sublplots and in character development, needed for depth. Jim West's personal stake in doing away with McGrath and Loveless is a bit hard to swallow as well. What amounts to a one-act chase scene is what the viewer sees, though it makes for a pleasurable watching. There's a good deal of the charming camp I spied first in the television series, but there's also the late nineties language and innuendo that makes this a strict PG-13. Watch it with a teenager today.

[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
You are better off waiting on this one. I know I couldn't have been talked out of seeing it, either, but it just lays flat. If you even remotely enjoyed the TV series, it has all be forgotten here. There were only two scenes in the whole movie that even reminded me of the TV series. Will Smith, unfortunately, didn't go with the Jim West of the series--a rough and tough super agent, but became yet another wise cracking, throw out the rules hero. Kevin Kline's considerable talents are flittered away--amazingly, he has the comedy relief role and gets none of the funny lines! At least there is plenty of nifty effects, well designed Jules Verne like gadgets, and some really, really beautiful women. As for a story, I think the "I will avenge my parent's death" is best left to the experts of the Chinese cinema than in this popcorn flick.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
This movie is the Bomb Diggie. It'l hit the spitzot if you know what I mean.The ratings of this movie is so intense that it's a must see. But don't take my scoop. Compared to bad boy's and other Big Willie related movies this one has it all. Don't forget the pops and please try and go to a theatre with some digital surround sound. Don't cheap it. It's worth the dough. Handled the situation with your shorty or friend and get ready for explicit and formost dramatic explsoxions since Back Draft(kurt Russell). Wild Wild West is blazin hot you'll need extra ice with you large coke. While your reading all this you could be making reservations to go see this movie. Like "Nike" Just Do It!

[--- Good ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
This movie has been getting poor reviews so I went to it expecting little. Personally I liked it. Will Smith and Kevin Kline handled their roles well. This movie had a huge "yeah, right" factor. But from what I've seen on reruns of the old tv show, so did it. This movie will probably appeal to males more than females, however.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
"They’ve taken a classic TV series and bastardized it," says the REAL James West, Robert Conrad, in Entertainment Weekly # 493. I think that pretty much sums up the worst movie of 1999 (yes, worse than Baby Geniuses). What’s next? Chris Tucker as the title character in a remake of "Quincy?" Wild Wild West hits rock bottom and is an embarrassing effort for all involved.

Listen to all the well deserved criticism of this terrible film and avoid it at all costs. Roger Ebert: One Star. USA Today: One and a half stars. James Bernardinelli: One and a half stars. I thought maybe Hollywood had learned their lesson after "fluff over form" summer blockbusters Godzilla and Batman & Robin had failed the last two years. Nope. This is the worst example yet: a summer movie with a story as a distant afterthought. Barry Sonnenfeld got his start directing porno movies, and I’m sure they had more plot than WWW. What is the story? Basically, it’s Blazing Saddles meets Inspector Gadget, and that’s a good point to bring up: Did they constantly have to ape the best Mel Brooks movie of all time, including a hanging sequence and constant racial jokes (which are hilarious in Blazing Saddles but groan-inspiring in WWW)? What’s with the mechanical bugs? Wild Wild West has no heart, no chemistry, and no purpose. There is not one redeeming part of this entire movie. I don’t even know what it’s supposed to be. A comedy? I wasn’t the only one not laughing at the fairly busy showing I attended. Two people in front of me fell asleep. I can’t even call it formula. It’s not smart enough to follow a formula.

I’ve saved good old Will for last, because that’s where he belongs. Nobody listened to me after he brought down Independence Day. Nobody listened to me after he became a big part of the mess known as Men in Black. Now do you realize, those unfortunate souls out there who have had to endure Wild Wild West, what my problem is with the talentless Will Smith? If you don’t by now, then next summer will feature just the movie for you. It’s called Men in Black 2. Only in America...

10-point scale rating: 1

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
If this movie didn't have Will Smith in it it would have been even worse. Salma Hayek was also very pretty and a very good actress. The funny comments they tried to make were not really funny at all. A few were funny but not really. I went to see it with my friend and her family and they all hated it too. My friend said it was worse then the Avengers and she didn't like the avengers. Some of the things they did were not possible back then. It was not worth the money or the afternoon and I warn you I almost fell asleep it was so boring. Don't waste your money on seeing it!!!

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Listen to the critics and stay away! This entire movie is like pieces were taken off the cutting room floor and placed in random order. It's not funny, it's not a good FX film, and it's a complete waste of time and money!

[--- Good ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
This movie was as about as entertaining as the TV series but different. After reading some of the poor reviews I had fairly low expectations of this movie but my son wanted to see it so we saw a matinee. It was worth the $4.50 apiece. The special effects are probably a little better on the big screen than at home on the TV.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Wild Wild West was great!!! It doesn't try to be a carbon copy of the TV series, and I found the differences exciting and refreshing. It's a fast pace, hilarious film. Unfortunately, the humor may be too subtle for the intellectually challenged or disturbing to the anal set. I've seen many complaints that a Black US Marshal in the 1800's is unrealistic. Be real!! The TV series was not very realistic and that was the fun part. I found this movie much more entertaining than Austin Powers and Star Wars. Go see it now!!! As with most action films with huge special effects, it will not be as exciting on the small screen. I'm going to see it again and pay for the privilege!!

[--- Good ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
This was an . . . entertaining movie. Not terribly deep or dramatic, in fact, it was improbable and predictable, but also funny. I loved the inventions and both characters held true to the television series, in my mind - Artemis Gordon the older, down to earth inventor and Jim West all swagger and action.

If you're looking for a few hours of pure old fashioned escapism and fun, see this film.

[--- Good ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
This was a pretty good movie. I admit, it was predictable, you knew the bad guys would lose, but it was also very funny. The inventions they came up with were imaginative and both characters were as entertaining as I remembered them being in the old television series.

This film will guarantee you a couple hours of laugh out loud fun.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Will Smith can't have all good movies. This movie was completely horrible. I admit some of the characters were kind of cool, but the story is crap and I can't believe Will Smith took this. It tried to be fun , but it wasn't, it was stupid. The action was very lame. It keeps your interest, but only for the 2 hours it's on, after that you walk out wishing you had your money back. Stay away from this one, it's pretty bad...

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
This movie just "sucks". It is a total waste of two talented leading men. The only brief (very) moment to watch was the low revealing clothing line in a scene with Salma hayek.

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