Wild Wild West Review

This review was originally posted for the Ultimate 90s Blogathon, hosted by Tranquil Dreams and me.

Wild Wild West movie posterSynopsis
Army Captain James West (Will Smith) is tasked by President Grant (Kevin Kline) to work together with US Marshal Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline) to find the ex-Confederate scientist Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) before he can take over the United States government.

Review
Wild Wild West was a go-to movie for my friend and I back when we were growing up. Between the two of us, we could (and still can!) quote the movie in its entirety. Having watched this many times over the years, I acknowledge that the nostalgia factor might affect my enjoyment of the film, as I have found several flaws since watching it as a young lad. However, that doesn’t mean it still can’t be enjoyed on its own merits.

Right out the gate, this movie is goofy. Not funny, although it is that too, but goofy. Artemis Gordon’s inventions feel a little too perfect for the situations they get Gordon and Jim West out of. Arliss Loveless’ beard rivals Crane’s beard from The Hunger Games for most intricate movie beard, acting as the proverbial “I’m the bad guy” sign. Loveless’ invention to bring the “US government to its knees” is a giant, steam-punk tarantula. Everything about this movie screams “Saturday morning cartoon.” Nevertheless, it has a sense of fun that many film miss, which is why it still works for even as I’ve grown older. Wild Wild West never takes itself seriously, making it fun for both the actors and the audience.

The humor can be seen as a little juvenile, like the scene below, but that kind of humor is what I like. Will Smith and John Kline are enjoyable to watch together. This film came out relatively early in Smith’s film career. It is fun to see how he has brought the same energy and personality to his characters throughout all of his movies, whether they were in the 90s, when he started film acting, or today. I’ll admit I haven’t seen many of Kline’s films to compare Artemis Gordon to his other roles but his comedy here is more subtle than Smith’s which works because having two boisterous comedians would be too much.

Besides the two leads, the other two big supporting actors, Salma Hayek and Kenneth Branagh are clearly having a good time too. The often scantily clad Hayek is obviously there for the eye candy and to give West and Gordon someone to compete for, but it doesn’t appear to bother her and she gives a memorable performance. Branagh gets fully into the maniacal villain role. It’s cartoonish and over the top but he steals his every scene he’s in.

I thought Wild Wild West was GOOD 🙂 It isn’t afraid to be silly and have fun with itself, which might turn off other viewers but I really enjoyed that. Everyone, from Will Smith and Kevin Kline to Salma Hayek and Kennith Branagh, feel like they are enjoying themselves. I grew up watching this film regularly and although its imperfections have become more apparent over the years, it still is every bit the fun, adventurous romp I remember it to be.

Favorite Scene

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Barry Sonnenfeld – Director
Jim Thomas – Story
John Thomas – Story
SS Wilson – Screenplay
Brent Maddock – Screenplay
Jefferey Price – Screenplay
Peter S Seaman – Screenplay
Elmer Bernstein – Composer

Will Smith – James West
Kevin Kline – Artemis Gordon / President Ulysses S Grant
Kenneth Branagh – Dr. Arliss Loveless
Salma Hayek – Rita Escobar
M. Emmet Walsh – Coleman
Ted Levine – General “Bloodbath” McGrath
Frederique van der Wal – Amazonia
Musetta Vander – Munitia
Sofia Eng – Miss Lippenrieder
Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon – Belle
Bai Ling – Miss East

The Road to El Dorado Review

The Road to El Dorado movie posterSynopsis
Miguel (Kenneth Branagh (voice)) and Tuilo (Kevin Kline (voice)) are two Spanish con artists who end up finding their way to El Dorado, the hidden City of Gold.  When they arrive, High Priest Tzekel-Kan (Armand Assante (voice)) and the Chief (Edward James Olmos (voice)) mistake them for gods. With the help of Chel (Rosie Perez (voice)), they play the part until they can get out of the city with as much gold as they can.

Review
I don’t know what it is about The Road to El Dorado, but I always have a good time watching it. I think part of it may be the two main characters, Miguel and Tulio. They seem more like the goofy sidekick characters than the main characters. Tulio is the level-headed one, always trying to do the smart thing in a given situation and Miguel is the care-free adventurous one. Together they go through all the antics you would expect them to. Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh are excellent in their roles. I wasn’t sure about Branagh at first, but he grew on me as the film went on.

It can be hard to have an animated film that works as a comedy, but The Road to El Dorado manages to pull it off. This stems from Kline and Branagh. They bounce off each other so well. When they recorded their lines, Kline and Branagh recorded together, which is probably the main reason they work so well. Numerous jokes may go over a younger viewer’s head; it feels many of them are geared towards adults. Crude jokes are right up my alley so I think added to my enjoyment.

Armand Assante absolutely kills it as the villainous Tzekel-Kan. His voice is exactly what I imagine that kind of character sounding like. It was fun to watch him compete with the Chief, voiced by Battlestar Galactica’s Edward James Olmos. Olmos has a deep voice that fit with the Chief’s large stature. I haven’t gotten to Rosie Perez as Chel. She brings a sexy spunk to her character that not many animated characters possess.

Elton John, Tim Rice, and Hans Zimmer, the team responsible for the fantastic music from The Lion King, reunites for The Road to El Dorado. However, their music isn’t as memorable this time around. It’s hard to compete with what they did in The Lion King, where every song was memorable (I bet you could recite any one of them right now). In this movie, they weren’t as memorable. My favorites were “It’s tough to Be a God” and “Out of the Blue” but they don’t stick with you the same way as “I Just Can’t wait to be King” or “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” do.

The Road to El Dorado may not be up towards everyone’s tastes, but it does have its qualities. The voice cast fit perfectly to their characters. If the adult humor wasn’t as prevalent, I would still have liked this movie, but its crudeness pushes it into the next level for me. Despite the same musical team as The Lion King working on this film, the score doesn’t have the same memorable qualities. Some aspects of The Road to El Dorado fall short, but for the most part, this movie works.

Rating
3.5/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Eric ‘Bibo’ Bergeron – Director
Don Paul – Director
Terry Rossio – Screenplay
Ted Elliot – Screenplay

Kevin Kline – Tulio (voice)
Kenneth Branagh – Miguel (voice)
Rosie Perez – Chel (voice)
Armand Assante – Tzekel-Kan (voice)
Edward James Olmos – Chief (voice)
Jim Cummings – Cortes (voice)
Frank Welker – Altivo (voice)
Robin Bell – Zaragoza (voice)