A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Wild Wild West is a big, loud, coarse adventure flick, with interesting visual styling including steampunk gadgets and an Old West setting. There's lots of cartoonish violence, including characters who are suddenly punched in the face and shot in the gut and then bleed gorily while their bodies are summarily dumped in the water to be fed to "the crabs." The viewer sees many dead bodies, and main characters are frequently in mortal jeopardy such as being suspended under a moving train, though such hijinks are usually played for laughs. There are many sexual situations as well, with characters rolling around intimately (no nudity), and prostitutes offering sexual services for pay. There is also racial humor: at one point Will Smith shucks-and-jives like a slave, and a group of white Southerners threaten to lynch him while Smith calls them "rednecks." Cursing is kept to a minimum, save for a few S-words, and a lot of coarse language like "boobies." The viewer is told that some characters are good and others bad, but all are violent and prone to trickery.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Based on the campy 1960s TV show, WILD WILD WEST follows the adventures of Civil War era secret agent James West (Will Smith) and his sidekick Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline), a master of disguise and technology. When their nemesis Dr. Loveless (Kenneth Branaugh) vows revenge for losing his entire lower half in the Civil War and aims to gain total world domination within seven days, West and Gordon set out to stop him. Salma Hayek plays the lovely Rita Escobar, who flirts with all three men and spends much of the movie in fetching 19th century lingerie with a brief detour into a union suit with the trap door open.
Is it any good?
Wild Wild West has a weak, weak script. It is not unusual to see a trailer that is better than the movie, but in this case the music video is brighter, wittier, and more exciting than the movie. Will Smith's appeal goes a long way toward making up for poor plotting and dialogue, but not far enough.
There is some attempt to deal with the fact that West is a black man at a time when most black people had only recently been freed from slavery, but the entire movie is so completely preposterous that the effort is awkward and inconsistent with the tone of the rest of the film. Indeed, the overall tone of the film is awkward, not giving Kline or Hayak much to do, though Kline has a nice turn as President Grant. Branaugh is happily over the top as the bad guy, there are some cool special effects, and Smith's charm and grace carry it a long way, but not far enough to make it anything more than a pleasant diversion less raunchy than Austin Powers.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: June 30, 1999
- On DVD or streaming: November 30, 1999
- Cast: Kevin Kline, Salma Hayek, Will Smith
- Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: action violence, sex references and innuendo
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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