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WILD WILD WEST

SYNOPSIS:
In 1869 special government agents James West (Will Smith) and Artemis Gordon (Kevin Kline) are sent to track down evil genius Dr Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) who is plotting to assassinate the President as the first step in initiating a new world order. The cocky West and master of disguise/brilliant inventor Gordon are rivals at first but team up when mysterious entertainer Rita Escobar (Salma Hayek) enters the picture with her own agenda for ending Loveless' campaign. Meanwhile Loveless, who exists only from the waist up as the result of an experiment gone wrong, has completed the construction of a monstrous walking weapon called The Tarantula with which he intends to carry out his diabolical plans.

"Wild Wild Worst, Worst Worst West, Vile Vile West - I haven't decided which is my favourite alternate title but they all apply to this hulking, overblown piece of celluloid garbage which with hype alone will generate big box office initially, before word of mouth gets out. Hype is the word - it starts in the press kit for this stinker which describes Will Smith and director Barry Sonnenfeld as "one of today's most successful motion picture pairings" - what, after one film (Men In Black)?? How about earning your accolades; this kind of statement only invites reverse hype proclaiming them as "one of today's most notorious one hit wonders". Wild Wild West reminded me of Terry Gilliam's version of The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen in it's profligate squandering of an open cheque book on expensive visuals rendered useless by an impoverished screenplay lacking even the barest amount of wit. Kline's one of the best comic actors around and can usually make bad material work but simply doesn't stand a chance with this material. Branagh at least seems to be enjoying himself but he's the only one having fun and seeing the distinguished Shakespearian actor in this is like watching Laurence Olivier taking the money and running in The Betsy or Clash Of The Titans. Salma Hayek is wasted in a decorative role and, like everyone else including the talented Smith, deserves better than this travesty."
Richard Kuipers

"Wild Wild West is utter drivel from start to finish. It's reported budget of US$170 million is plainly evident on the screen but what a complete waste of money. Fabulous sets, costumes, and the latest special effects cannot compensate for a bad script, two lead actors who have not an ounce of chemistry between them, and a lame idea in the first place. The script is so derivative that it's not funny. And it's meant to be. It's borrowed from Independence Day, Men in Black, The Odd Couple, every Western that's ever been, every mad inventor movie that's ever been, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, the Bond films, and the Lethal Weapon series. Its intention seems to be a sci-fi comedy adventure buddy film set in the west of 1869. The Lethal Weapon movies commented on the excessive violence and special effects of latter day Hollywood by using humour. Director Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black) hasn't understood this. He probably wasn't helped by a screenplay which used at least six different writers, none of whom seemed to know what kind of humour they were meant to be writing. The actors also seem confused. Will Smith has chosen the 'nod and wink' at the audience approach, Kevin Kline switches between understated and over the top, and Kenneth Branagh (probably most successfully) plays the melodramatic bad guy for all he's worth. Composer Elmer Berstein has no idea how to score the intended comic moments - leaving them completely without music to underscore any possible laughs. Though perhaps this was Sonnenfeld's choice. The best choice Sonnenfeld could have made was to not make the movie in the first place."
Lee Gough

"In the tradition of the worst that Hollywood has to offer, it would be fair to say that Wild, Wild West is a truly awful film, and one of those experiences one would rather forget. Of course, with its multitude of producers and four writers, who can ask for anything less than a movie that is over-directed and excessive in every way? One would think, naturally, that a film with four writers could actually get their heads together to write at least a half-interesting script. But perhaps this writing quartet didn't quite have a handle as to what to write about. Here we have a Western, of sorts, set in post-Civil War America, a land divided, and what do we find: Monstrous giant tarantulas and cowboys wearing Ray Bans. Oh yeah, welcome to Hollywood. This is a mess of a film, a true conglomeration of half-baked ideas patched together by a director who should know better. Men in Black, this ain't. Lightning has not struck twice. Apart from the film's no-brain plot and clumsy use of comedy and high tech gadgetry, director Sonnenfeld hasn't allowed his actors to breathe any kind of life into their underwritten characters. Smith is himself in smart Western gear, uttering the odd one-liner on cue, but delivering a mechanical performance. Kline comes off slightly worse, apart from being clearly miscast, he gives one of his dullest performances to date. Hayek is in the film for decorative purposes only, while Branagh is indescribably woeful. There are some odd visual touches that show promise, and some of the effects are clever enough, in a cold fashion, but the film is loud and lacks any kind of real direction. It's neither funny nor exciting, just over-bloated nonsense that succeeds in being simply annoying. Somewhere, there might have been an adventuresome film lurking in the shadows; regrettably, there's nothing wild about any aspect of this west."
Paul Fischer

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 3
Mixed: 0

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TRAILER

WILD WILD WEST (M)
(US)

CAST: Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Salma Hayek, Ted Levine

DIRECTOR: Barry Sonnenfeld

PRODUCER: Jon Peters, Barry Sonnenfeld

SCRIPT: S. S. Wilson & Brent Maddock and Jeffrey Price & Peter S. Seaman.

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michael Ballhaus, Stefan Czapsky

EDITOR: Jim Miller

MUSIC: Elmer Bernstein

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bo Welch

RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 9, 1999

VIDEO RELEASE: April 4, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video







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