Wild Wild West

sleeping dogStars:  Will Smith, Kevin Kline

They took a fun-to-watch television series with good characters and turned it into yet another bickering buddy action movie. Although, in this case, the bickering borders more on downright hatred and the action while okay, can’t save it. They turned Doctor Arliss Loveless from a diabolical menace who oozed charm and wit into someone who’s little more than grotesque.

Hooray for Hollywood. Why don’t they leave old television shows alone already. Every one they’ve turned into a movie, bombed.

Kevin Kline as Artemus Gordon, the inventor of before-his-time gadgets, was wasted talent here, unless you want to count how well the makeup and costume people can turn Kline into a woman or President Ulysses S. Grant. Will Smith knows how to deliver stupid smartmouth lines extraordinarily well but who cares. His Jim West, a Captain in the U.S. Army turned into the wild west’s first secret agent, is not the least bit believable. Even if you did buy a black man achieving that status back in the 1800’s, his character is without the discipline or intelligence that would warrant such an achievement. Smith’s West is nothing but a kick-em and shoot-em kind of guy, an anti-intellectual who’d rather insult Gordon: ‘We don’t have time for your half-baked plans and inventions; we have to stick to what we do best.’ Well, for Gordon, inventions and gadgets are what he does best. Perhaps a minor slip up on the part of the writer, director or the star who usually ends up reworking his own dialogue, but any TV fan would have known how ludicrous this line was.

As in the TV show, Jim West and Artemus Gordon are on assignment to save everyone from Dr. Loveless who plans to take over the world or at least a portion of the American West with one of his diabolical inventions, conceived and constructed by scientists whom he kidnapped. Kenneth Branagh certainly does a good job playing the malevolent Loveless who, for this film, has been turned into half a man, literally, having lost half his body during the Civil War. But, he has no redeeming qualities. For that matter, neither did Jim West.

It’s largely a kiddy action film with sexual overtones. Hollywood just can’t seem to produce films without throwing sex into to mix. I gather that’s because the majority of studio executives are really thirteen year old boys.

There are a few bits of humor that infiltrate the film here and there. Advice to Kline and Branagh: stick to Shakespeare or in Kevin’s case, quality comedy like “Dave”.

Also appearing are Salma Hayek and M. Emmett Walsh.

Lotta says “Wild Wild West” is nothing to be wild about.