In the Venn diagram of things we love to hate and things we forget about, you will find the 1999 film “Wild Wild West.” It came out at the tail end of that time where Hollywood felt safe putting out bad movies because we still knew how to enjoy the action and the stupidity without picketing the studios. And yet, Wild Wild West somehow missed the train, getting slammed for all the things that made similar films so delightful.
During a recent lazy Monday afternoon, I rewatched it to see if it was as bad as I remembered. It wasn’t: it was way worse. And I loved it.
Right off the bat, you can see the jokes coming from a mile away. They are still mostly good jokes, though. I found myself chuckling here and there at the wacky situations Will Smith found himself in or the back and forth banter that is spread throughout the film. The comedy may be standard, but it’s solid. Everyone groans when they hear a “dad joke,” but we all secretly love them. The same is true of this movie.
The action scenes are over the top. If Will Smith were boiled down to a series of action sequences, this would absolutely be the result. Goofy, yet still attempting to be sly and cool. Fighting a giant spider and two beautiful assassins while making fun of an evil Confederate scientist/general is possibly the most Will Smithiest thing Will Smith has ever Will Smithed. That is what makes them so terrible that they are fun again. It’s wacky and zany, and nostalgic in a weird way.
The plot of this film is very 90s. I am thoroughly convinced that Kevin Kline was given two bits of direction during filming: be snarky and help us make some sense of what is going on. Essentially, Dr Scientist Kevin Kline is tracking Evil Scientist Confederate General Amputee, because…see, I’m already forgetting. But Kevin Kline assured me that it made sense, and it was imperative that we find the bad guy and take away his gadgets. Will Smith agrees, but because they are both leading men, they naturally don’t like each other. Through the power of friendship, a flying buzzsaw, and two magnetic dog collars, they learn to work together to cut the steam-powered wheelchair out from under the guy who directed the first Thor movie.
Overall, this film was awful and I can think of no better way to have spent my afternoon. It’s been a long time since Hollywood gave us movies like Wild Wild West. Absurd, goofy romps that let us escape for a while are refreshing. It’s not meant to be an Oscar winner, or a groundbreaking comedy, or an exciting action film. It excels at the only thing it was meant to do and be: 107 minutes of steampunk silliness.
I give this movie a B+ out of five stars.
Guest post by Josh Price