review for Wild Wild West on AllMovie

Wild Wild West (1999)
by Adam Goldberg review

The Old West. An era of valiant gunslingers, high-noon showdowns, rocket-powered wheel chairs, and giant mechanical machines. This is the twisted and muddled logic of the big-screen remake of The Wild Wild West, an incomprehensible action-comedy with plenty of power, but little strength to back it up. Penned by a pack of writers including S. S. Wilson, Brent Maddock, Jeffrey Price, and Peter S. Seaman, the absurd screenplay is all concept and no content. Clearly, heaps of money were used towards the film's lavish production, but this vapid venture proves that audiences need more than bang for their buck. A laughless comedy, Wild Wild West features a cornucopia of elaborate mechanical contraptions, a seemingly desperate attempt to distract viewers from the fact that there is nothing of merit in the project. Director Barry Sonnenfeld relentlessly clutters his narrative with action, special effects, and comedy that consistently falls flat. Once the flashy gadgets are eliminated, all that's left is a cast of talented performers stranded in inanity. Famous Shakespearean actor Kenneth Branagh completely overacts as the villain, while the rest of the cast is clearly running on auto pilot. Will Smith and Kevin Kline have zero chemistry, but still manage to deliver their ludicrous lines thanks to substantial paychecks. It's a sure sign that Hollywood has missed the mark when the closing shot of an Old West movie contains a mechanical tarantula traipsing off into the sunset, an image that perfectly summarizes this summer debacle: everything tossed in and nothing to show for it.