Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Movie Review: Wild Wild West 2 1/2 Stars

Wild Wild West was one of the most inventive television series, putting a refreshing and occasionally campy spin on the Westerns and spy genre. Although the show only ran for three short seasons, it was beloved by a solid base of hardcore fans and lived on as a re-run favorite for decades.

When Warner Bros. dusted off the property and attached it to Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh and Men in Black director Barry Sonnenfeld as a feature, how could anyone have anticipated that the result of such a terrific prospect would be so stinky?

Will Smith plays Captain James T. West, an Army officer quick with his fists and quicker with his guns. Kevin Kline plays Artemis Gordon, a US Marshal, master of disguise and inventor of gadgets. Despite and perhaps because of their differences, President Ulysses S. Grant partners the two of them up to track down the evil Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) who has kidnapped the country’s leading scientists for a fiendish plot to take over America.

The slavery backstory weaved throughout the narrative promised to be something very, very cool and heretofore unseen in a summer blockbuster. Quickly, all hopes of that were dashed. Instead, slavery and racism were used merely as a threadbare construct on which to hang character motivation. At times, the attention Wild Wild West to James T. West’s skin color seemed borderline racist -- not on the part of the characters, but the filmmakers.

I so wanted this to be good. I guess that’s what’s meant by disappointment.

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