www may mean one thing to a lot of you out there, but in this
particular case "www" means the action movie starring Will
Smith and directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. Wild, wild Will is ridin'
high lately and turning into a regular box-office broncobuster.
Wild Wild West
James West (Smith) is a special government agent who
manages to do his job well, charm the ladies like they've never
been charmed before, enjoy himself as much as possible under
any circumstances, and stay on top doing all of it (sort of like a
black James Bond). Artemes Gordon (Kevin Klein), another
special government agent, unexpectedly meets up with West
and within minutes of their first encounter they manage to get
themselves into and out of a right old prairie stew. Artemes is a
genius of disguise and gadgets (sort of like an Old West version
of Q in drag). As explosive as their first moments together
might be, it's nothing near what's in store for the dynamic duo
once the evil Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) enters the
scene, a man with no legs and less good will. This man uses
both machines and machinations to put his plans into action.
Much to Artemus's dismay, the two good guy buckaroos wind
up getting assigned to a project together. Completely different
by nature, it doesn't take long to understand that one believes
in precision planning while the other believes in shooting. They
wind up pursuing the devious trail of Loveless who, as it turns
out, is plotting to assassinate the President of the United States
and take over control of the world. In order to achieve his
diabolical plot, this little man not only spends hours whizzing
around on a cast-iron, steam-driven wheelchair, but also drives
his own gigantic 80-foot-tall walking weapon (also steam driven)
called The Tarantula. Are you ready?
® 1999 Warner Bros.
(all rights reserved)
photo courtesy of Industrial Light & Magic
Of course, our boys would be less interesting ridin' down the
dusty road if they weren't accompanied by the feminine charms
of Rita Escobar (Salma Hayek), who also wants to assist, no
matter how awkwardly, in the demise of Loveless (if only she'd
keep her hands off the boys' billiard balls). Loveless, never one
to be outdone, surrounds himself with his own villainous lovelies
in the form of Miss Lippenrieder (Sofia Eng), Munitia (Musetta
Vander), Miss East (Bai Ling) and Amazonia (Frederique van
der Wal). He may have lost some of his appendages, but this
doesn't seem to have slowed him down. On wheels or with
machines, the man keeps on moving. Perhaps he still hopes
that the South will rise again.
Producer John Peters has chosen a fun script for another box-
office hit. Not really coming up to par with his earlier choices
"Witches of Eastwick," Batman," or "Rain Man," this new
production may offer some exciting moments, but could never
hold up to a second viewing as the others indubitably do.
Nevertheless, it's bound to draw a crowd. A spy film and
romantic comedy made into an action packed chase dressed in
the West with an added touch of hi-tech weaponry derived from
the horror genre. Guess that'll keep it shelved in all possible
sections of Blockbuster Video.
Everybody seems to be having a good time. Even the bad guys
are having a good time. Branagh is funnier than ever before as
the evil shrunken man with a sneer for everyone and an
endless supply of sarcastic remarks. Kline walks (sometimes
runs and jumps) through his role, but he's wonderful doing it
and, boy, can that guy cook. M. Emmet Walsh doesn't really
have any great demands made on him by the script as he
drives the good guys' locomotive. General "Bloodbath"
McGrath (Ted Levine) is the nasty who keeps proving that you
can't keep a bad man down and manages to supply quite a few
belly laughs along the way.
Winner for most interesting machine among the lot is The
Tarantula. One leg was actually built (weighing in at 10 tons),
but the rest was left to computer animation (familiar with the
term out there?). Good thing West and Artemus didn't suffer
from arachnophobia. That would have really thrown a monkey
wrench into the works.
Smith is a necessary element for the success of this film. His
charm is the element that binds it together and makes it work.
He also used this charm to assemble the personalities (Dru Hill,
Kool Mo Dee, Stevie Wonder, Babyface, Enrique Iglesias, etc.)
on the soundtrack. (Let us not forget old hand Elmer Bernstein,
who has done a great job, as usual, for the score.) Smith's
done a fine job with the title song too, which is all his, and it has
an eye-catching video clip which you'll undoubtedly see (many,
many times) on MTV. Things are getting better all the time for
the FP. Who knows what the future holds in store for young
Will? The next thing you know, he'll be wanting to run for
© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett