From: Subject: Date: April 21, 2005 3:53:51 PM CDT Hankblog

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Movie Retrospectives: Bombs Away Week
The Defendant: Wild Wild West

Description of the defendant:
Loosely based on the TV Series of the same name. That is to say, it has two characters with the same names as on the series, takes place at roughly the same time period, and has the same title. US Army Captain Jim West (Will Smith) must team up with US Marshal Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline) to try and figure out the nefarious plans of the legless Dr Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh). Along the way they run into a gorgeous dance hall girl (Salma Hayek), who is looking for one of the kidnapped scientists who may be unwilling participants in Loveless's plans.

Crimes against moviegoing humanity:
Ridiculous amounts of men in bad drag - Artemus is ostensibly an inventor of some note, who has this peculiar penchant for disguises as a means to acquire knowledge. In the end, the costumes wind up being props for a series of bad visual gags, including an argument between him and West over whether his artificial boobs feel real or not. Later there's a bit with West sporting a flame throwing brassiere. Non of it is particularly funny in any capacity.
Suspension of disbelief beyond all reasonable limits - You know, I could suspend my disbelief pretty well for most any light popcorn movie. I could handle Branagh riding around in a steam powered wheelchair as a forerunner of the modern electric. But when the damn thing grows legs later in the movie, sorry, but there is no way in hell I can buy that as being technologically capable for the 1870s, let alone the "thing" that is the centerpiece of Loveless' plot (I don't say what the "thing" is, on the off chance that there might be people reading this that still want to see the movie. If you have seen it, check out An Evening with Kevin Smith
as he has an interesting insight into how that thing came to be.)
Really stupid nicknames revisited - I mentioned just how obnoxious this was in Hudson Hawk yesterday. This movie does it on a sillier scale, because these aren't code names, they're the character's actual names. Loveless has a bevy of attractive women in his employ who execute many of his tasks that he can not. The tall striking blonde is Amazonia, the one who reads lips at a distance is Miss Lippenreider, the one carrying his munitions Munitia. Ain't that just a pip? I'm overwhelmed by the wittiness of the four writers who worked on this thing.
Excessive fawning by the female lead - It seems like the only lines they could give Selma for this movie were reaction shots where she says about one of the male leads "He's so (insert adjective here)." and ridiculously convenient knowledge about whatever Loveless plans to do next (Deus ex Latina? Sorry, couldn't resist). If this movie had any aspirations at being a smart spoof of the western genre (see Blazing Saddles), then this kind of lazy screenwriting would have worked for laughs. As it is, it just sounds stupid.

Guilt/shame by association:
Kenneth Branagh in a landslide - Kenneth, you go from directing some of the best filmic adaptations of Shakespeare ever done to this crap? Sporting the spottiest and worst southern accent I've ever heard (making him the British answer to Keanu trying to sport an English accent in Bram Stoker's Dracula I suppose). And you sport dialog that tries to pass off exchanging bad puns about West's skin color and your lack of limbs as witty? What the hell, man?
Will Smith and Kevin Kline - Granted, at the time this was done, we had yet to see that will could really act (see Ali). But Kevin had won an Oscar by this point. Will had some good action movies under his belt. And together they wind up in what is essentially Men In Black Goes Western. And it's almost as boring as the MIB sequel was. Perhaps Will can do a movie with The Rock next year, and we can have MIB Goes Hawaiian?
Salma Hayek - Would have been a hell of a lot easier getting funding for Frida if you hadn't have done this dog, Salma.

Best awful line:
Probably the greatest sin of this movie. There's not one memorable line, good or bad, in the whole damn thing.

Time served:
Nominated for 9 Razzies in 2000, winning Worst Picture, Director (Barry Sonnenfeld), Song, Screenplay, and Screen Couple (Smith and Kline).
Rated 4.0 stars out of 10 on, based on over 14,000 votes cast (putting it below yesterday's feature Hudson Hawk, but I think it's a slightly less awful film)
18% Fresh rating on (14 positive reviews out of 78).

Best critical line on Rotten Tomatoes:
"Few things are potentially more dangerous to the health of a studio picture than giving a director and a star enough rope to hang themselves."
-- Kenneth Turan, LOS ANGELES TIMES.
Bonus: Damning with faint praise line From one of the "positive" reviews - "It is not a good film, but it isn't a disaster like last year's "The Avengers," either."

Any mitigating circumstances or good behavior?:

Not really.

Sentence issued:

I don't think that this should be remembered as one of the worst movies ever, simply because it isn't that awful. Compared to the other features being highlighted this week, it's easily the least offensive of the bunch. But in the end, Wild Wild West is not a good movie. It's not an interesting movie. It's not an exciting movie. It's barely a funny movie. With so little to recommend for it, it's a wonder it ever got made. It didn't make back it's initial budget (reportedly a whopping $170 million dollars, with domestic gross of $117), so the producers might be asking the same question. I think the greatest sin is that someone thought this was worthy of $170 million, when they could have spent a third of that amount and made an Adventures of Brisco County Jr. movie. That probably would have been about 10 times more entertaining. The series sure was.