Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wild Wild West (Barry Sonnenfeld, 1999; photographed by Michael Ballhaus)

Jon Peters, who produced this, also produced Money Train (a movie Wild Wild West frequently resembles -- and not only because it's about two cops, one white, one black, who spend a lot time around trains), and the entire plot was contrived to fulfill the hairstylist-turned-producer's lifelong dream of making a movie where the characters fight a giant spider in the end. It's a lot of high-concept dumbassery, but it's also easily the most fun Barry Sonnenfeld movie. Actually, it's at its worst ("cool" CGI, a long gay panic gag that's doubly offensive because of its awful comic timing) when Sonnenfeld is Sonnenfeld and at its best when Sonnenfeld apes Joe Dante: assassins pretend to be paintings, a water tower tumbles over and flushes out Will Smith, a dog and an earhorn recreate the HMV logo. It's about 40% blatant re-shoots (during which the studio apparently tried to turn this into a Bob Hope / Bing Crosby movie) and the sort of production where all of the actors (expertly miscast) seem "woefully underused." The period detail amounts to characters constantly pointing out that Will Smith is "a Negro," and both leads end up in drag at different points in the film (Kevin Kline treats it like he's Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot; Will Smith plays it like he's Bugs Bunny).

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