review for Wyatt Earp on AllMovie

Wyatt Earp (1994)
by Derek Armstrong review

Released in theaters at a robust 195 minutes, Wyatt Earp ballooned to 212 for its video release. For those familiar with Kevin Costner and the "prestige projects" Dances With Wolves encouraged him to do, this should be no surprise. As producer and star, Costner partners up with writer/director Lawrence Kasdan to deliver a Wyatt Earp movie with high production values, but very little sustained drama. Each dusty town looks exactly as it should, and the camera doesn't miss a splendid detail. But the story itself has little arc, advancing through a series of unconnected and unexplained scenes, few of which contain rousing moments. In fact, the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral begins with no fanfare, and it's about as exciting as watching paint dry. Certainly, Kasdan and Costner's project was to produce a darker, more historically accurate epic, featuring a grumpier Earp than had appeared in Tombstone, the more upbeat action-adventure version of the story released a year earlier. A surly Earp may be truer to history, but in Costner's stiff hands, it slows the pace and deadens the film. Furthermore, the relationships between characters are so strained that the whole movie starts to mope along with him. For a movie of such bloated length, it's surprisingly underdeveloped. The viewer knows little about Earp's brothers, lovers, or enemies, all of whom are just about equally disagreeable. In its design details, Wyatt Earp does carry a badge of authenticity, but it doesn't do much else to earn the viewer's affections. Instead, it serves as a preview of Costner epic misfires to come (Waterworld in 1995, The Postman in 1997).