WILD WILD WEST
Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Salma Hayek
1999, 107 Minutes, Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
"Well, I didn't see anybody laughing - did
you?" Homer Simpson asks Bart of the Police Academy movies in one Simpsons
episode (after claiming that he made the boy watch them for educational purposes). Well,
the same could be said of the audience I was with watching Wild Wild West. No, I
didn't exactly hear anyone laughing as well . . . It was if the cinema had been turned
into a laugh-free zone.
A local reviewer dubbed this new collaborative effort between Men In
Black director Barry Sonnenfeld and the very popular Will Smith a "bad, bad
mess." It isn't exactly that - rather, the operative word is lame. Nothing
seems to click or work out. The attempts at humour just drift around without any pay-offs,
the interaction between Will Smith and his co-star Kevin Kline just doesn't sparkle, the
effects look murky towards the end, the action sequences lack urgency. Or maybe it's not a
comedy at all - I don't know. But then again, why have both Kline and Smith dressed up in
drag at various points in the movie?
Drag? Yeah, the humor is pretty obvious and every trick (or rather comedy cliché) in
the book is used; but that shouldn't be a problem really. The week before I saw Wild
Wild West I saw Austin Powers - The Spy Who Shagged Me in which the attempts at
humor were pretty obvious as well - except it worked, goddammit! Maybe because of its
sheer energy and maniacal style - who knows? But Wild Wild West is merely lame . .
So where did things go wrong? After all, this is Will
Smith and Barry Sonnenfeld we're talking about here. After all, Sonnenfeld also gave us
the excellent Addams Family movies and Get Shorty. Don't take me wrong -
some bits in Wild Wild West are moderately entertaining and will raise a smile or
two. But laugh-out funny? No.
"The attempts at humor just drift around without any pay-offs .
The movie tries to be clever like Men In Black. It also takes a way-out
premise - this time two agents trying to foil the nefarious schemes of a mad scientist
shortly after the American Civil War to conquer the United States with a huge mechanical
spider - and pursue it doggedly to its end. After seeing the trailers, I went to the movie expecting the sort of Jules Verne-type gadgetry that used to amaze me as kid. They were
there, but none of them seems to have any internal logic behind them. You couldn't imagine
how they would work - they simply did, courtesy of computer generated effects. The
gadgetry simply failed to fire the imagination.
The same could be said of the various performers in
this movie. They have all had better days and better material to work with. The scene in
which the Smith character is about to be lynched by rednecks should have been funny - but
it is just lame. It reminded me of a scene in 48 Hrs which Eddy Murphy did
(the bar scene, worst nightmare being a "nigger with a badge" - remember?) but
whereas Murphy pulled it off, Smith doesn't. Maybe because the dialogue is so inanely lame
. . .
Kids will probably be entertained by Wild Wild West - but if you're an adult
there are more bearable movies out this season you can watch with them. If you
want action and adventure, then there's The Mummy. If you want laughs there's the
new Austin Powers movie. If you want sci-fi, then there's The
Matrix or The Phantom Menace. If you want a cool Will Smith
movie, go rent Enemy of the State. A Western? Then go watch The Good, The Bad
& The Ugly again. There are a whole lot of better alternatives
out there to Wild
Wild West . . .
Oh yeah, I forgot - Wild Wild West is based on a cult television series of
years ago. I haven't seen any episodes of it, but am struck as to the similarities between
The Avengers and this movie - both lame big budget movies based on
old TV shows and produced by Warner Bros. studios. Don't they ever learn?