Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
Written by John Brent Maddock, Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman & S.S. Wilson, based on a story by Jim Thomas & John Thomas
Starring Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Salma Hayek, Ted Levine
My Advice: Wait for MST3K.
Two of the best federal law enforcements officers in 1860's America have just come nose to nose. Jim West (Smith) is an impetuous brawler who lives by his gun. Artemus Gordon (Kline) is a master of disguise and gadgetry. They both work alone, at least until President Grant orders them to join forces and stop the evil "Bloodbath" McGrath (Levine) along with whoever is funding his plot to kidnap brilliant scientists (and in some cases behead them).
Amazingly, this film is pretty much just as bad as the critics have made it out to be. And it's astounding to me. Will Smith, normally fun to watch in pretty much anything, can't light up this drab piece. The only thing more nonexistant than the script is Salma Hayek's relevance to the storyline, so there's no witty trademark one liners for Smith to deliver. There's never any chance for he and Kline to get any chemistry going whatsoever so forget about that. And the ham-handed attempt the filmmakers provide as backstory for Smith is just contrived to hell and back. Kevin Kline, an absolute joy to watch on the screen, even in cinematic crap, is not engaging at all. Sure, he's got the gizmos and all, but that's not enough to make for a character we can care about. Oh well. As for the scene-chewing Kenneth Branagh, who plays the paraplegic villain Dr. Loveless, I'm sure he had a great time doing the part. I wish I could say that he was fun to watch. He's pretty much in "I'm in a bad movie let's go over the top" mode from jump and stays there from beginning to end. Ted Levine is almost unrecognizable as McGrath, complete with beard and horn for an ear. He shows shreds of acting as the movie wears on, but not much.
Let's see, we've stated that there were no characters for the actors to work with, God love them. Let's try something else wrong at the very core of the film: the film has no idea what it wants to be. First it wants to be a western, but apart from the costumes and the supposed technology level there's little to lend it a place amongst that genre. Then it wants to be a science fiction film, but it takes more than nifty keen devices to be a science fiction movie. Oh, and it also wants to be a comedy of sorts, and that idea is funnier than anything else in the film. This film's idea of comedy is to lean on jokes about race and disability (which weren't all that funny to begin with), along with bad visual gags that come out of nowhere and are incredibly incongruous. Throw all of this in the pot with a slew of easily predictable plot twists and a payoff (the much-touted 80 foot mechanical tarantula) that was ruined by being in every commercial and print ad and there are no compelling reasons to see this film--at all.
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