It has become a Fourth of July weekend tradition: barbecues, sparklers and the release of a new Will Smith movie. But if Men in Black and Independence Day were colorful fireworks that had mainstream audiences oohing and aahing, Wild Wild West explodes on the screen like a dud rocket, making a loud bang, but never delivering the goods.
This 19th Century spin on the "sparring partners who become pals and thwart the bad guy" formula pairs the libidinous, trigger-happy James West (Smith) with pacifist inventor Artemus Gordon (Kline). According to director Barry Sonnenfeld, "Jim's theory is to shoot first, shoot second, shoot third and when everyone's dead, try to ask a question or two." He doesn't get to ask many questions. A sizable body count involves people being shot, stabbed, decapitated, blown up or thrown from great heights. There's also a heavy dose of bare-knuckled brawling.
En route to foiling a crazed villain, our "heroes" ogle and jape about female anatomy (women wear low-cut costumes and show rear nudity). Also, it's safe to say the film's profanity, sexual innuendo and bestiality joke were not adapted from the '60s TV series on which this rickety thrill ride is based.
Stylish opening credits and spiffy art direction aside, Wild Wild West is a cinematic tumbleweed; it rolls along without much to it. But the sub-par "fun factor" may actually make it easier for teens to resist the film and its even more troublesome, moral, shortcomings.