Wild Wild West (1999)

Rating: **
Release Date: 6/30/99
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Music: Elmer Bernstein
Special Effects: Industrial Light & Magic
Cast: Will Smith, Kevin Cline, Kenneth Branagh, Salma Hayek, Bai Ling

A lightweight, silly, and marginally entertaining revision of the trippy 1960's TV show, but it fails to pay off. Wacky inventions and character eccentricities are played to gratuitous extremes, which effectively nullifies any impact that they may have. "Godzilla" (1998) and "The Avengers" (1998) got similar makeovers - bigger, louder, and in your face, but completely lacking any genuine charm. In this version of "Wild Wild West", the first stumbling block is getting used to the notion of Will Smith as Jim West. He brings his patented endearing charm and charisma to the character and is a lot of fun to watch, but he just seems really out of place. In the film, Jim West is a remarkable gunslinger in the service of President Ulysses Grant, and he's got a personal vendetta against Professor Loveliss (Kenneth Branagh) for the death of his family. Ho hum, is this plot device necessary? He gets teamed up with the bizarre and eccentric inventor Artemis Gordon (a career killing role for Kevin Cline) to track Loveliss down and put an end to whatever devilish scheme he has up his sleeves. In this case, it's a giant steam operated battle tarantula. The trailer for the film summarizes the whole movie pretty well. The effects range from really bad to really good, but like much of the film, they're often drawn out to the point of tedium. When all else fails, there's delicious (but severely under-utilized) Salma Hayek to drool over and wickedly seductive Bai Ling to ogle. Instantly forgettable mindless eye candy.