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For some strange reason, Hollywood has developed a penchant for taking classic television shows and turning them into movies (Tinsel town is definitely bereft of original ideas). Unfortunately, what Hollywood has failed to realize is that lightning can't be trapped in a jar and the magic of a classic television show can't be easily recreated. The reason that classic television shows were successful has more to do with the random elements of certain talented people coming together at a particular time, than it does with Hollywood's notion of a successful "formula."

Sure, THE ADDAMS FAMILY worked as a movie-- twice, but that is because the material originated as a ghoulish comic that transcended the actors that portrayed the characters on the small screen. Let's face it; almost every other attempt to resurrect a television series on the big screen has failed because the actors, writers, producers and directors usually had absolutely nothing to do with the original show. In other words, all this new talent thought that they could improve upon a classic.

This brings us to WILD WILD WEST ($25), the latest classic television show to be given the big screen treatment. While WILD WILD WEST isn't as awful as film version of THE AVENGERS, it isn't a great movie either. Personally, I found WILD WILD WEST to be mildly amusing and appealing only because of the on screen personalities. The movie is reminiscent of the original television series that starred Robert Conrad and Ross Martin, but as entertainment, it gets bogged down because there is too little plot and too much reliance on big budget special effects to fill the void. WILD WILD WEST stars Will Smith as Army intelligence officer James West and Kevin Kline as U.S. Marshall Artemus Gordon. West and Gordon cross paths while trying to capture the same fugitive, however they end up getting in each other's way and on each other's nerves. Of course, as quickly as you can say Ulysses S. Grant, the President teams West and Gordon together on an assignment to find missing scientists that leads them to a planned overthrow of the U.S. government by a disenchanted member of the former Confederacy.

WILD WILD WEST also stars Kenneth Branagh as Dr. Arliss Loveless, the legless villain, who plots to bring down the United States government with a giant mechanical tarantula. Watching Branagh shamelessly overact, as Loveless is one of my favorite things about WILD WILD WEST. Of course, my other favorite is Salma Hayek, who plays Rita Escobar, the daughter of a missing scientist. Hayek is little more than window dressing in the film, but since she is so beautiful (and threatens to pop out of her costumes), I really can't complain. Will Smith and Kevin Kline have definite on screen chemistry, which could have generated a solid action/comedy team. Unfortunately, the script gives them too little to work with to make their pairing genuinely memorable. The cast of WILD WILD WEST also includes M. Emmet Walsh, Ted Levine, Frederique Van Der Wal, Musetta Vander, Sofia Eng and Garcelle Beauvais.

Of course, Warner Home Video delivers WILD WILD WEST on DVD in a presentation that is nothing short of stunning. The wide screen transfer faithfully recreates the film's 1.85:1 theatrical framing and the DVD has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Taken from a flawless print, WILD WILD WEST is as sharp and detailed as any new movie can possibly look on DVD. The brightly lit daylight sequences in the desert look incredible, as do almost every other scene in this movie. Color reproduction is superb, with every vivid hue being perfectly rendered without a trace of chroma noise or the possibility of bleeding. Additionally, flesh tones appear incredibly natural. Blacks are perfectly recreated and the image has incredibly smooth contrast, as well as a wonderful level of shadow detail. Thanks to first rate authoring and the use of dual layer technology, there are absolutely no problems with digital compression artifacts.

WILD WILD WEST features a wild, wild Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack that really takes advantage of the discrete format. This is a very aggressive mix that isn't afraid to bounce sound effects all over the sonic environment. Sounds effortlessly move back to front and side-to-side in a very convincing manner. Additionally, there are a lot of split surround effects, for those particularly impressed with that aspect of the Dolby Digital format. Dialogue is very clean and natural sounding and the bass channel provides an explosive sonic boom to the bottom end of the track.

The nicely designed interactive menus include animation, sound and full motion video. Through the menus one can access the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the DVD's nice array of extras. Topping the list of extras is a highly detailed audio commentary with director Barry Sonnenfeld. Also included is an HBO First Look titled Itís A Whole New West. This featurette runs approximately 15 minutes, features interviews with the cast and is hosted by Salma Hayek. Additional short featurettes include Wardrobes Of The West, Good Guysí Gadgets, Lovelessí Ladies and Evil Devices. Each of these run under ten minutes and gives a good rundown of the filmís costumes, femme fatales and special effects. The DVD also contains a theatrical trailer, two music videos, plus a making of featurette for the Will Smith Wild Wild West video. Cast and Crew biographies/filmographies fill out the DVDís extras.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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