Well folks, Moriarty here really seems to have felt like he had just sipped douche juice after seeing THE WILD WILD WEST. However, I now feel it as my duty to inform you that apparently Moriarty despises Kenneth Branagh on screen. Now, while I believe Kenneth is responsible for the worst bloody tampon of a movie I have seen in the last decade of film (FRANKENSTEIN), I do enjoy highly his work in HENRY V, HAMLET, DEAD AGAIN and his character here in WILD WILD WEST. I actually believe there is some damn good undertones to his character... BUT.. hell.. I had my say in my review... So I'll turn things over to the Evil Genius who feels if you willingly pay to see this movie, you deserve the digested brown fluid with corn bits that you will ingest for the 2 hours it'll take to see this film. So here's the professor...
Hey, Head Geek...
There are very few things that make me as angry as when I see a racial or ideological group painted with a broad brush in a film and made to look stupid or weak. You can imagine then my shock to witness the vigor with which Evil Geniuses are slandered in the miserable, hideous, agonizingly painful WILD WILD WEST.
Allow me to backtrack a bit. I had no desire to see this film. It’s not that I was actively against it. I just thought the script was crap and couldn’t imagine it got any better in front of the camera. I saw the trailers and thought they were noisy and dull. I figured it was the kind of movie I could just skip and never miss.
My henchmen think they’re funny, though. They thought it was a good practical joke to drug my drink this evening and spirit me away to the Egyptian Theater, where I woke up just as the film was starting. When I realized what film it was, I decided to just sit back and enjoy anything I could about the film.
That attitude lasted for about the first nine minutes of the film. At that point, the pain became overwhelming, and I spent the next seven and a half hours of running time (or so it seemed) wishing various types of ill fortune on every single person involved with this enterprise. Well, almost everyone. Two people escaped my wrath, and I’ll single them out by the end of this review.
First, let’s address the story issues I have with the film. I guess the first would be that THERE’S NO FREAKING STORY HERE AT ALL! Altogether, maybe five or six major events happen in the film, with the rest of it being either someone summing up all the exposition so far or pointless special effects taking up screen time. Basically, the film starts with James Bond (played with all the range of a Daisy Air Rifle by Will Smith) boinking the girl from THE JAMIE FOXX SHOW in a water tank. That would be the water tank that people get their drinking water from, I’m guessing, but let’s not dwell on that. As they’re boinking, they’re interrupted by the arrival of Ugly Bad Guy #1 (played under about 60 pounds of Rick Baker makeup by Ted Levine). The water tower collapses and James Bond fights the bad guys naked. Across town, Mandy Patinkin (played in an exceptionally annoying manner by Kevin Kline) is in drag. There’s more fighting. Something explodes. James Bond and Mandy Patinkin then have to meet the President (played by Kevin Kline for no good reason whatsoever). He tells them to work together. They go fight on a train for a while. They go to a party, where Evil Dr. Foghorn Witless (deeply overplayed by Kenneth Branaugh) announces to everyone that he’s a bad guy. There’s some more fighting, and they rescue Tits’n’Ass (played with very little clothes by Salma Hayek). They ride their train again, then get chased through a cornfield by flying razor frisbees. Then they see a giant mechanical spider that they have to ride a flying bike onto, only to have more fights with various Ugly Bad Guys. Evil Dr. Foghorn Witless then dies.
Powerful dramatic material there, folks. The thing that really makes this film not just a dud but one of the more actively offensive pieces of giant-budget garbage lately is the so-called sense of humor. The film veers between feeble wordplay, sloppy half-hearted slapstick, and randomly offensive imagery like the exploding Lincoln head that introduces Evil Dr. Foghorn Witless. There’s exactly one line of dialogue in this film that made me smile, and that’s just because it didn’t profusely suck like everything before and after it. For the most part, the level of wit is along the lines of a moment after Mandy Patinkin’s flying bike finally works. James Bond asks him what he plans to call the device. Patinkin smiles and says, “Air Gordon.” Really. I didn’t make that part up.
This film is so bad, it’s like a black hole of entertainment. I’ve now forgotten the last three good films I saw because this film obliterated them. Barry Sonnenfeld, Jon Peters, and the team of professional retards they had commit this crime on paper orginally should all be drummed out of their respective guilds. I’ve thought for some time now that Sonnenfeld was a pale shadow of his former collaborators the Coens, not to mention Tim Burton, whose style he seems to ape at every opportunity. The difference is that those people are all real filmmakers. They all know how to pace a scene, compose a shot, create some sense of dramatic or comedic tension. MEN IN BLACK wasn’t bad, but it felt slight, like a trailer for a better, longer movie. His second ADDAMS FAMILY movie was at least funny. GET SHORTY is probably the only film of his that felt complete, but even that was overstylized, frequently overpowering the smart Scott Frank script with useless visuals. This time out, Sonnenfeld is so far out of his depth that he seems to have given up completely. He doesn’t even try to tell a story here. It’s just noise and shouting and people running around in front of bad rear projection shots.
Will Smith, Kevin Kline, and Kenneth “I killed Darabont’s FRANKENSTEIN script” Branaugh all have major sins to answer for here. I may have made fun of their characters above, but that’s because not one of them offers up anything like a fully formed performance here. There’s a definite sense of slumming from all there of them. Smith has an innate charm that nothing could take from him. I mean, he survived ID4 intact, right? This time out, though, I think it’s lazy work on his part. He’s Will Smith in every frame, and we get nothing new or different from him. Put him in a black suit and sunglasses and there’s no change whatsoever. His relaxed comic style seems natural set against the backdrop of today, but he’s a walking, talking anachronism here. I know, I know... “it’s a fantasy version of the Old West.” Bullshit. This isn’t a fantasy version of anything. There’s rides at Walt Disney World that are more convincing than this film. At no point do I believe that I was looking at anything other than modern actors on sets and soundstages. In addition, there’s a drag scene with Will as a belly dancer that I hope they make him watch several times a year as penance. It’s horrifying, unfunny, and seems to last at least 45 minutes. Kevin Kline can be great in comedy (A FISH CALLED WANDA) and awful in comedy (IN & OUT), but I’ve never seen him look so bored. I hope he got paid a lot of money for this film, because it’s almost end-of-a-career awful. Still, he’s not the worst actor in the film. No... leave that to today’s Olivier. Once again, Kenneth Branaugh proves that he should have his tongue removed before he is allowed in front of another camera. I’ve cut farts more subtle than his work here. Aside from the visual kick of him without legs (thanks, but I already saw FORREST GUMP), there’s nothing going on here. He’s just a racist little jerk. Wow... how funny is that? Besides, as I stated at the start of this review, I am offended by how he portrays an Evil Genius. I’m an Evil Genius. I know many other Evil Geniuses. You, sir, are no Evil Genius. I’m not going to beat up on Salma for her performance, since she’s just in the film to have most of her breasts showing at all times. I’m sure someone convinced her this would be a good career move. It wasn’t.
There are two technical contributors to the film who did nice work. Bo Welch is a gifted production designer who’s done some exemplary work over the years when working with artists like Burton. That’s probably why Sonnenfeld loves using him so much. Welch brings real imagination to the proceedings, and his mechanical spider in interesting to watch for about 90 seconds. Then it does the same thing over and over and becomes just another phony backdrop. The sets are interesting ideas, but Sonnenfeld doesn’t shoot them with any sort of flair, so it’s hard to tell just how much fun they are. The other standout work in the film was done by mechanical effects supervisor Michael Lantieri, who is one of the true magicians working in film today. He’s the man who let Roger Rabbit and Eddie Valiant share a coat, who helped Casper pour a real glass of juice for Christina Ricci, and who convinced us that the raptors were real. He mixes the real and the pretend with aplomb, and this is the kind of show he was born to work on. There’s a lot of mechanical effects for him to create here, and he brings his usual level of excellence to bear.
Aside from that, though, I can’t say enough poison about this film. I’ve never done this on AICN before, but I’m going to beg you all to avoid the film. Don’t just take my word for it. Wait and let the suckers see it this weekend. Listen to how foul the word of mouth is. If you feel like you have to see it, then pay for something else and sneak into WWW. For God’s sake, though, don’t give this film a single penny of your money. This is the exact kind of crass commercial crap that we at AICN try to warn you about. This is nothing but an effort to take the money out of your wallet so it can line someone else’s. There’s nothing to recommend here, and anyone who pays to see it this weekend gets exactly what they deserve. If I could have my two hours back, I’d gladly trade it for the experience of sitting through this abomination. All I can hope is that Barry Sonnenfeld is out there somewhere, whining about the Internet like he has for the last few weeks (hey, Barry... it’s not our fault your movie blows), reading this review. I hope I’ve managed to shit in his head just a little to make up for how much he shit into mine tonight. When I hear someone complain that the testing process has been compromised and doesn’t let artists tweak their films fairly, I have to listen and give weight to those thoughts. Are we bad for films? But when the “art” under discussion is something as painful and pathetic as this, then the whole point is moot. Nothing could have saved this film, Barry, and nothing can save you if you keep making films that are this lazy and stupid.
Right now, I have to run watch my new Kubrick DVD box set or the new GHOSTBUSTERS deluxe edition... something to scrub my brain clean of the disease Warner Bros. put there tonight. I’ll try and recover for some other reviews this week. Until then...