Wild Wild West (1999)

(In theaters, July 1999) There are two ways of approaching this film. The undemanding method results in adequate enjoyment, but in the other lies madness. On one hand, we can appreciate Wild Wild West for what it offers: Will Smith looking darn cool, Barry Sonnenfeld’s sprinkling of ironic visual humor (like the sights gags about E.T. and -my fave- RCA’s “voice-of-his-master”), some interesting character dynamics and -boy, oh, boy!- a giant mechanical spider. Mix everything up and you end with an adequate summer popcorn matinee movie: Not too bad, but unfortunately not too special either. And there lies the seed of our discontent: You’ve got a script with the potential to pick and choose over the strongest aspect of James Bond, Steampunk, Buddy Movies and Westerns. You’ve got Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, ILM, Salma Hayek, Barry Sonnenfeld and $180M. How the hell to you end up with such a barely adequate movie? Six of the most bodelicious babes in recent memory grace the screen, and the movie can’t even wring some hot scenes out of it? Six writers and you end up with “That’s a man’s head!”? Sheesh… The editors should be shot for letting at least three separate scenes run for a full thirty seconds after we understood the joke. This is the kind of movie that really make you reconsider the average IQ of Hollywood residents. How could you produce such a non-event out of such sure-fire concepts and talent? Watch Wild Wild West to find out.

(In French, Second viewing, On TV, April 2004) Yup: five years later, this film still sucks. While the incoherent pacing may have been affected by the choppy for-TV editing, the lame editing of the surviving scenes still rankles. Oh, the visual design of the film is fantastic: this American steampunk vision is often impressive (despite unconvincing special effects) and the melding of action movie aesthetics with western period flavour is enough to make anyone dream in wonder. But seldom has so much been wasted by so many: The atrocious script is conceptually OK, but fails on a scene-per-scene basis, with unexplainable pauses and lame gags repeated over and over again until all freshness has been squeezed out of them. Salma Hayek is gorgeous (as usual), but is wasted in a role that pops in and out of existence. No wonder so many people, myself included, hated it five years ago: it has lost none of its awfulness.

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