Wild Wild West

What's not to like?
"It's a whole new west."

As promised, today I will be standing in defense of what is more or less an indefensible movie. I am not going to sit here and try and tell you that WWW should have won awards because it is an example of the art at its finest, what I'm going to suggest to you is that the failure of this movie, and the dislike that people express for it, are both somewhat mystical to me. Again this isn't because it is such a great movie. It's because as near as I can tell, it is practically the same movie as Men In Black, only in the...well the wild wild west. Now before you explode in outrage at this generalization consider a moment! A movie with Will Smith, as a smart-allecky law enforcement agent, along with his partner (Tommy Lee Jones deadpan Agent K or Kevin Kline's goofy-ass Artemis Gordon), a lady they pick up along the way (Salma Hayek as Rita Escobar in WWW and Linda Fiorentino as the morgue lady in MIB). They attempt to uncover a mysterious threat against the Earth/the United States, as directed by their gruff bearded boss (Kevin Kline again as Ulysses S Grant/ Rip Torn as Zed). This threat ends up being insectoid and could destroy the whole world/country (a giant cockroach/giant robot spider). In addition both movies feature a theme song set to the hook of an old pop song that is performed by Will Smith.

Known for his musical triumph: "The Thong Song"
Yes, that's right. We all know Will Smith the actor, but some of us have spent years of therapy trying to forget that in the late 80s well through the 90s, he was also a progressively worse and worse rapper. Some of the worse things he recorded were tie in themes for Men In Black and Wild Wild West. Again however, there is a strange disparity in their popularity and success, despite them both being certifiably awful. The MIB  song actually won a Grammy for best rap solo performance in 1998. I guess that competition wasn't very stiff that year or something. The WWW song on the other hand, while still very popular (It topped pop charts apparently, clearly another part of the late 90s I blotted from my memory) but alas ended up with a Razzie in '99. I guess rap standards really took a jump in that year. I mean really, what did MIB have that WWW didn't? Did it have Stevie Wonder? I don't think so. Cisqo?! No, I think not. Really now, it doesn't get much more A List than Cisqo, with his silver hair and cowboy hat. The point being, I really feel like both songs deserved Razzies, because they were both bad.

Madman lost his damned mind in the west!
But enough about bad rap songs. Let's talk about WWW itself. The movie was nominally and theoretically based on the television program of the same name. Originally slated to be a much closer adaptation starring Mel Gibson in 1994 (He would instead star in a feature length adaptation of Maverick, a movie I'm rather fond of to be honest) but after some developmental changes the story was changed to involved a run and gun civil war hero turned U.S. marshal versus the legless steam powered mastermind Arliss Lovelace, portrayed by Kenneth Brannagh, a Shakespearean actor who seems to like to really ham it up in his spare time (see also his performance as Prof. Gilderoy Lockhart in the second Harry Potter movie) It featured a sizable amount of special effects work, a large portion of which involved an unfortunately obvious green screen. The climax of the film features a giant mechanical spider, capitalizing in grand fashion of the vaguely steampunk technology seen earlier in the movie. Apparently this giant mechanical spider was a fixation of co-producer Jon Peters, who had also attempted to cram a giant spider machine into the 5th Superman movie (before Tim Burton was brought in on it) and the prospective adaptation of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman. Now while it is an unusual choice (and also a bizarre thing to be fixated on) I guess you could try and cram a spider fight into a Superman movie, but really? The Sandman? I don't recall there being robot spiders or... giant robot anythings.

Aww come on, I think they're kind of cute together.
While WWW grossed decently in its theatrical run (around 222 million) it had an enormous budget for a movie of its type (170 million) so it's returns were pretty marginal. I again have to compare to MIB, which grossed almost 590 million dollars when it came out less than two years earlier. Similar to the performance of their respective theme songs, MIB received overwhelmingly positive reviews, currently floating an impossible 90% positive rating on rotten tomatoes, whereas WWW received overwhelmingly negative reviews and enjoys a 20%, like it probably deserves. MIB was nominated for awards, whereas WWW won not just the single Razzie for it's Big Willie Style theme, but also 4 others for worst picture, worst director, worst screenplay, and maybe best of all worst screen couple (Kline and Smith)
This week on Law & Order: Criminal Intent...
As I've been saying throughout, it isn't that I think that WWW was a good movie. I just don't understand beyond Vincent D'Onofrio as a totally gross roachman named Edgar what made everyone hate this and love MIB. I think both of them are silly, but entertaining, and served mostly to fan the flames on Will Smith's altar to himself, creating endless opportunities for him to quip at bad guys. Honestly I kind of like WWW better, and despite initially appearing worse I think WWW's special effects have aged a lot more gracefully than MIB's have. Besides WWW has Ted Levine (maybe you know him as the police captain on Monk?) as the grossest participant of the civil war (and that's saying something).

Now for some quick self aggrandizement! I have posted a link to The Tagline's new totally unimpressive Facebook page (streamers and confetti yay!) where you can go should you wish to talk about the movies I'm reviewing, movies you want me to review, or whatever else, as well as catch up on other updates that could be forthcoming (oooh exciting!). Like it if you like the things I write, or even if you don't. Get your friends to like it. Make an account for your cat, and have your cat like it too. Stay tuned on Saturday for a special post where I explore how Jack Black appears as minor characters in way more movies than you'd initially suspect (often with KG riding shotgun) and also that there was a third Neverending Story movie, and it was really really bad, and had Jack Black in it. I'll start off next week's reviews with the remake of Conan the Barbarian, where I will sit down movie producers and explain that, while blood and boobs are cool, they rarely are enough to hold together a movie that is two hours long (and felt like it was four hours long).

Until then, enjoy the musical stylings of Will Smith and Dru Hill. Get jiggy with it. (wow this video has a whole little drama around it).

Haha haha!


  1. I recognize that it is not a great movie, but I love it nonetheless. Will Smith... I'll watch him on any screen doing anything for two hours any day of the week.

    Salma Hayek's hot too.

  2. Yeah you know I didn't really appreciate it until I was watching 30 Rock and just thought... damn, Salma Hayek is STACKED.


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