Back in the day, I used to watch the The Wild Wild West every week. It was such a great television series, with action, adventure, peril, and humor. It was just plain fun to watch. After loving Will Smith in Independence Day and Men in Black, I had high hopes that the Wild Wild West film would be good. I was disappointed.
Based on the aforementioned television series, the film follows the adventures of special agents James West (Smith) and Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline) as they try to prevent Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) from destroying the United States. Along the way, the intrepid duo pick up Rita Escobar (Salma Hayek), who wants to rescue her father from the clutches of the evil Doctor Loveless. Sounds like a normal adventure for West and Gordon, right?
Instead, Wild Wild West turns into a parody of the original series, making West into an irresponsible womanizing jerk and Gordon into an arrogant-but-brilliant idiot who seems more concerned with himself and his research than with saving the United States. The humor was pathetically low-brow, too. Instead of the smart humor found in the original series (or in Men in Black, one of the director’s previous works), the script became just plain obnoxious and stupid.
Now, it’s not that the actors weren’t trying. I could tell they were putting a lot of effort into the film, and really wanted it to work. Unfortunately, the direction (Barry Sonnenfeld), writing, and editing didn’t work with them. One of the blurbs on the DVD packaging said the film was a “knockout”. In this case, it means the film turns you unconscious with humor and timing similar to that found in the not-so-classic Disney animated feature Home on the Range. There were very few high points in the film.
The special effects were okay, but definitely not on the level of Independence Day or Men in Black, both of which came out a few years before Wild Wild West. The best effects were long shots of the steampunk giant tarantula. Anything requiring close-up work just wasn’t up to snuff.
In the end, the film is just below average. There’s very little of the original series within it, whether in spirit or otherwise. The director and writers basically took the original and beat the crap out of it. I don’t recommend Wild Wild West, and I don’t plan on watching it again. I almost want my time back.
Release Date: June 30, 1999 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Alcohol/Drugs: 3 (regular drinking and smoking)
Language: 2 (occasional strong language and deity, regular minor swearing)
Nudity: 1 (a couple very brief back shots of naked people running)
Sexuality: 2 (very risque bath scene, a lot of bordello scenes with people in various stages of undress)
Violence: 3 (some brutal violence, a few gory scenes, a lot of shooting and fisticuffs, death)