WILD WILD WEST
Starring Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Salma Hayek and Kenneth Branagh
CineSight Rating **
The name's West...James West (Smith), and along with his gadget-toting sidekick Q, I mean Artemus Gordon (Kline), he's out to save us all from the clutches of Dr. Evil, I mean Dr. Arliss Loveless (Branagh).
Loveless, a maniacal mechanical genius (surprise), is bitter about losing the Civil War and about losing both his legs in that war. His revenge is simple: kidnap a group of scientists to help him build a terrifying weapon with which he can force the new U.S. government to surrender. Unfortunately for the luckless, legless Loveless, West and Gordon are hot on his trail in their souped-up train full of gadgets 007 would be proud to own.
If you're looking for the quintessential Summer Movie, then look no further. WILD WILD WEST has all the ingredients - a wise-cracking star; a plot so obvious anyone over the age of 3 can understand it; an over-the-top villain and of course, a truckload of special effects. Smith and Kline make rather bland heroes, rather like Batman and Robin, but they do allow the bad guy to rant and rave and create all kinds of mayhem. The real stars of this movie are the wonderful Jules Verne gizmos and Dr. Loveless. Kenneth Branagh excels at playing larger than life characters, thanks in part to his theatrical background in emoting and over-acting. This time around he simply oozes vindictiveness, making for a very entertaining comic-style villain, reminding me of Jack Nicholson's Joker performance a few years back. As for Salma Hayek - there was no reason for her presence in the picture, other than to be the literal butt of several jokes. And Barry Sonenfeld's direction seems a little more chaotic than usual. He doesn't manage to capture the same chemistry with Smith that they managed on MEN IN BLACK.
WILD WILD WEST is perfect if you're looking for an excuse to sit in an air-conditioned theater for a couple of hours and just zone out. Look out for a couple of fun references - one parodies the dog-and-megaphone logo of His Master's Voice, and the bicycle flying by the moon from E.T. Enjoy the wild effects and general sense of silliness, but don't expect to think.