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Wild Wild West


  • Attempting an untenable mix of smirky self-awareness and raucous action, with a handful of faux-edgy racial and sexual jokes
  • Staging half of the action scenes in dark, crowded rooms
  • Stranding Kevin Kline's poignantly out-of-touch inventor character alongside Will Smith's camera-hogging, generically cocky Western hero

Director Barry Sonnenfeld

Tone Of Commentary
Wry and unassuming. Sonnenfeld mostly delivers deadpan explanations (in a nasal, Jon Lovitz-meets-Jerry Lewis voice) about how special effects can trick the audience. His dry wit is more fun than the movie.

What Went Wrong
While he never specifically acknowledges Wild Wild West's box-office failure, Sonnenfeld does occasionally roll his eyes at his own work, saying of one big fight scene, "How much longer for this thing?" His obsession with minutiae—like the proper look and feel of Kline's fake breasts, or what sound should come out when Smith plays a drum solo on a woman's breasts, or his fascination with a bit player's bare breasts—exemplifies how blockbuster bloat causes filmmaker distraction.

Comments On The Cast
Sonnenfeld is uniformly complimentary, noting of Smith, "You cast Will, and you're saying this movie is sort of hip and smart and different, and it's okay to like it," and calling villain Kenneth Branagh "great... really wonderful as a fascist." He does refer to Kline as "a little bit whiny," but doesn't elaborate. Sonnenfeld is more fascinated by the extras, saying of one scene, "The extras are so not good... There's no sense of urgency." He also becomes increasingly fascinated by extras who look like famous people. ("The guy on the right is not Jimmy Caan... he just looks like Jimmy Caan.")

Inevitable Dash Of Pretension
Sonnenfeld keeps harping on the similarities between Wild Wild West and a James Bond movie, insisting, "This is sort of a James Bond kind of scene, isn't it?" and asking, hopefully, "That's a cool little gun, isn't it? That's the kind of thing you'd like to see in a movie like this... or in a James Bond movie." And, when one of Branagh's steampunk weapons emerges from the ground, Sonnenfeld says, "That was my homage to penises... I like to have as many phallic symbols in a movie as I can get in."

Commentary In A Nutshell
"Again, that's not Jimmy Caan."