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Wild Wild West

Once upon a time in the 1960s, there was a television show called The Wild Wild West, starring Robert Conrad as James West and Ross Martin as Artemeus Gordon. The show was a new take on the James Bond concept, this time set in post civil war America. West and Gordon were two Secret Service agents, both highly respectful of their jobs and of each other. Fast forward to 1999 and the release of Wild Wild West starring Will Smith as West and Kevin Kline as Gordon. At the beginning of the movie, you hear the familiar sound of the old television theme song. Partway through, it changes, becoming more 'hip' and up to date. Hey, that means the movie is now hip and up to date, right? Uh, no.

The movie goes back and tells the story behind the first meeting of West and Gordon. They are both on the trail of Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh in a very odd choice for a role), an embittered soldier of the Confederacy. Loveless is kidnapping many of America's top scientists, and Gordon and West, under the orders of President Grant to rescue them. West and Gordon are both headstrong, so of course, they have trouble getting along. Helping them along the way is Rita Escobar (played by Salma Hayek in a waste of a role), and innumerable number of Gordon's gadgets.

Wild Wild West is the product of a good idea, a star director (Barry Sonnenfeld), a big star (Smith), lots of money, and a bad script. Smith and Sonnenfeld scored big with Men In Black, and it seems that a number of people were trying to recapture this success. Smith will by no means lose his role as one of the kings of the summer box office, but he could have done better. Throughout the entire movie, West and Gordon bicker like schoolkids. It is amazing that they were able to actually work together to get anything done. Dialogue written to be funny comes off as tedious and boring. The decision to cast Smith also brings about some strange plot inconsistencies. The South had just lost the Civil War. Yet, West was already pretty high up in the US Army. No explanation is given as to how or why this could happen. This is a minor detail that can be overlooked, but the slavery jokes that result as of this are distasteful and out of place.

Most of the special effects are great. Watching Loveless and his 80-foot tarantula wreak havoc throughoutt the desert is extremely amusing. However, at other times, the images projected onto the blue screen behind Smith and Kline seem painfully fake. Wild Wild West comes off as the poster child for a mediocre film, a great concept not fully realized.

Haro Rates It: Okay
1 hour, 40 minutes, Rated PG-13 for action violence, sex references, and innuendo.

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