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Movie Review

Wild Wild West

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for action violence, sex references and innuendo.

Reviewed by: Matthew Prins
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Older Teens
Genre:
Comedy
Length:
107 min.
Year of Release:
1999

Starring: Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Salma Hayek, Ted Levine, M. Emmet Walsh / Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

In the viewing of nearly every movie, there must be some suspension of disbelief to enjoy the movie. If there is a questioning of the accuracy of every event in a movie, where’s the enjoyment? From “The Spanish Prisoner” to “The Phantom Menace,” the audience needs to make some leap of judgment. However, “Wild Wild West” abuses the rule over and over and over to such a degree that finding an event in the movie that is believable is like looking for intelligence in a Pauly Shore film.

This disbelief goes beyond just super-magnetical neck restraint, the turbo-powered bicycle, and the 100-foot high mechanical spider. (Lest you believe that “Wild Wild West” takes place in the future, Ulysses S. Grant is the movie’s U.S. president. And since you’re asking, mechanical spiders are generally considered to be invented post-Grant.) No, the disbelief starts with the relationship between the two major protagonists, James T. West (Will Smith) and Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline). They are supposedly working together—while harboring a less-than-secret dislike of each other—on stopping the Conferderate-loving, double amputee villian Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) from taking over the United States with the financial help of France and Spain, among other nations. Independently, West and Gordon could be considered believable, I suppose, but together they have no chemistry at all. It often feels like either Smith or Kline is working in front of a blue screen with the image of the other projected on it. They are both in their own little acting world, and they see no reason to let the other actor in. Because of that, the most interesting character in the movie is the evil Loveless (ha ha! What a clever name), but even Branagh’s portrayal is often tired and uninteresting.

As should be evident by the appearance of a giant metal spider, “Wild Wild West” tries harder to be a comedy than a western. The humor in the film is primarily racial and sexual, occasionally blending the two together into something even more annoying; the zenith is an incident where West pounds on a woman’s breasts, then explains it away by saying it was a common greeting for his people back in Africa. Most of the rest of the humor is broad slapstick, but even those who enjoy that brand of humor will likely be disappointed by the small number of events that work succesfully.

The general tone of the humor in “Wild Wild West” will cause the most concern to Christians, especially because of the two instances of partial nudity that are used in that manner. There are occasional scenes of violence, mostly of the action cartoonish sort (except for one quite gruesome site at the very beginning). The language is cleaner than one expects in a PG-13 movie, which isn’t saying much. But overall, the movie is such a black hole of humor that why in the world would anyone want to see it anyway, Christian or not?

Viewer Comments
This movie was totally, totally offensive! I just can’t seem to figure out why humor HAS to be of a sexual nature to be funny??!! Will Smith, who I have enjoyed on TV for many years as being a silly, funny comic, has sold out to sex. It’s a very sad shame! As christians, we are called to be wise stewards of God’s money and wasting it on this movie is not wise stewardship!
—Suzanne Craig, age 30
From the start it was a rather questionable movie. I at first thought it was his wife that Will Smith’s character was in the tower with. It became obvious later she wasn't. The storyline probably wasn’t that bad, if it weren’t for all the sexual innuendos that kept popping up. Most of the comedy was tasteless. As for its links to the old Wild Wild West, the technology was fine, but if they were trying to be accurate, the original West was white. It is definitely not a movie for kids.
—Dave, age 23
I thought Wild Wild West was a good movie! There were some parts not worth seeing, but it was made to be ludicrous, not serious. Your review made it seem like a movie that was supposed to be serious. All the futuristic devices made the movie more interesting, not dull. I’m sure many others enjoyed the movie the way I did.
—John, age 15
I agree with the movie critic. This movie is a poor excuse of entertainment. I was was waiting for the explanation of how all this technology such as a giant mechanical spider, magnetized head-chopping flying saws, motor powered bicycles existed back when the frontiers where barely being discovered. This movie lacked any sort of realism what-so-ever. Some scenes, such as the beginning scene, where Will Smith is presumably naked in a water tank with a women has nothing to do with movie, the character or the plot. From a christian point of view, scenes like the whorehouse, the skimpy clothing women wore, ethnic remarks, the blatant killing (and with no remorse) all proved to be offensive…
—Luis Guillermo, age 33
I would not go see it again; it was horrible. We had to walk out early, it was so dumb.
—Marcia Young, age 14
…this remake of the 1960’s version is a far cry from the original and much more racy. This fact is conveniently left out of this fast food burger chain’s marketing strategy to children… [the prostitute] Rita Escobar (Salma Hayek) is a totally pointless character. The fact that nothing is ever done with this character makes it very obvious that the only reason why she was placed in the movie was to excite teenage boys. …the lack of a story really hurts this movie. The film does not know if it wants to be an action-adventure or a comedy and in being incisive, it is neither. I found myself very bored and looking for the exit. Wild Wild West is not for children. That is, unless you do not mind your kids seeing half naked women in whorehouses, partial nudity, a man and women kissing naked in a water basin, and on and on. To the films credit, though, the film’s violence is of a comic book nature and not too graphic or shocking…
—Kyle Suggs, age 29