Wild Wild West
** BM
Starring: The Fresh Prince, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Salma Hayek, M. Emmet Walsh


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It's hard for me not to like a Fresh Prince movie, but this movie was determined to challenge me on that point.

We've got Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, M. Emmet Walsh, Salma Hayek and Will Smith. How can this bunch of people make a disappointing movie? Well... you start by giving Salma Hayek a completely pointless role. Add to that a bucketful of missed comic opportunities, some less-than-suspenseful suspense and a bit of inexplicable editing, and you have a Fresh Prince movie that just doesn't work well enough to please.

It has funny points, it has decent bits, and there are hints of chemistry, but they are all woefully undeveloped. I heard tell that Hayek vigorously campaigned for this role, but I have no idea why, unless there used to be a whole lot more to it. She's nice to look at, but she does virtually nothing but provide another reason for James West (Smith) and Artemus Gordon (Kline) to compete against each other. The burgeoning comedy they could have had with this concept shows signs of becoming entertaining, but it sputters out rather quickly as the film segues into oddly paced and unthrilling action and "wacky" situations. Finally, we wind up with a lot of slightly uncomfortable slave/handicapped joke exchanges between The Prince and Dr. Arliss Loveless (Branagh) - the latter happens to have sacrificed the lower half of his body (all below the belly) for the Confederate army and is taking it out on the world.

I suppose if the handicapped guy is a racist Confederate mastermind bent on world domination, it's okay to mock his physical limiations. Ah, well... I do have my overly politically correct liberal pansy moments, and I was somewhat put-off by this. Something I'll have to work on.

However, it is also rumored that the shootings in Colorado caused some serious rewriting and re-editing on some of the more violent aspects of the film. I can understand this - the Burger King toys and such might give them cause to think they went a tad overboard with the shoot-em-up stuff. The problem is that there are some conspicuous points where it seems some important action or dialog was missing - specifically, West is fighting some metallic man... gets pushed toward a steep edge after repeatedly smashing the guy in the face with no effect... there's an odd pause... West says "Sorry"... he gets out of the way, the metal man's brain seems to short out and he falls to his doom. I think a quip or two got cut out or something.

I'm betting they were rushing too much to get it out on the first July weekend, so they could get the press frenzy about Will Smith and big-budget movies opening up on that date. This film could have benefitted from pushing back the release date and tweaking it a bit more. There just wasn't enough good to outweigh the questionable and disappointing.

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