Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Wild Wild West.”
The Movie: “Wild Wild West”
Starring: Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) The two best special agents in the Wild West must save President Grant from the clutches of a diabolical, wheelchair-bound, steampunk-savvy, Confederate scientist bent on revenge for losing the Civil War.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 17 percent
Brown: It took all of two weeks before I returned the JOE-DOWN to the usual dreck.
“Demolition Man” and “They Live” were all charming action movies that Froemming and I both enjoyed. So while we’re in Social Distancing mode trying to avoid more Adam Sandler movies, I decided to use a different strain of bad movie to infect the JOE-DOWN with a crippling case of cynicism.
Enter “Wild Wild West.” A movie so uncool it made Will Smith, the world’s coolest man in 1999 seem SUPER lame.
However, this movie does hold one special place in my heart. Before I swore off the restaurant for giving me food poisoning, a promotional deal with “Wild Wild West” led to one of the great fast food burgers: The Rodeo Cheeseburger. So you know, “Wild Wild West” is partly to thank for me having to shop at big and tall stores for clothes in my adult years.
So while I sully the town water supply with my naked body like Will Smith, give me your initial thoughts, Froemming.
Froemming: Leave it to Brown to find a way to make a global pandemic somehow worse. I wish there was a way for me to socially distance myself from this god awful movie, but alas, here we are.
I have no memory of this movie coming out. I barely recall the song. I guess I was too busy not giving a (REDACTED) about pop culture at this point in my life. And looking back, it seems I made the right call. Because this movie’s major problem isn’t so much that it is bad (it is), it’s that it is so forgettable. I often found myself forgetting the characters’ names, and what exactly was going on with the plot. When the credits began to roll, all that stuck out were the Rube Goldberg doodads (technical term) that the guy from “A Fish Called Wanda” had created.
Now Brown, as I head toward Washington DC in the sunset, which in this movie is to the west of Utah somehow, why don’t you kick this off.
Brown: So before the credits roll, we open with a scene of a man running wildly across a field while he’s being chased. All the while, he’s screaming “I must warn the President” because when people are trying to run away from something, it’s a smart idea to yell and give up your location.
In hindsight it doesn’t matter because the man is being chased by a saw blade which, even when we find out the reason, makes no (REDACTED) sense.
After the credits, we head to West Virginia, where Will Smith and a sexy woman taint a town’s water supply. With their taints.
Yeah, they’re about to have sex in a water tower and, I imagine, spread E. coli among other things.
Only, sexy time gets ruined by bad guys.
Froemming: Yeah, they are in the town’s water supply, naked as hell, which is disgusting on some many levels. And they are about to have sex, which means one’s morning glass of water is going to have some surprises in it.
And yeah, some bad guys come and, again this movie is so forgettable it should be called “video dementia” that I think they are kidnapping a scientist? All I know is U.S. Army Captain James T. West is trying to keep an eye on what is going on while also trying to bump uglies in the town’s only water supply.
Well, he falls butt naked out of the tower and takes on some hired goons of Gen. “Bloodbath” McGrath. While this is going on, the General himself is in a saloon trying to bed U.S. Marshal Artemus Gordon, who is dressed like a woman, because people thought this sort of thing was funny apparently in 1999. I didn’t, but maybe somebody did.
Brown, do you think this Artemus bleached his asshole like the Artemis from “It’s Always Sunny?”
Brown: I pray I never find that out. However, I could see this Artemus also being high on mescaline.
So wait, was there a scientist abducted? Because I flat-out missed that if that was the case. I know the horse carriage Jim West saves is full of nitroglycerin that doesn’t blow up when getting bumped around on a flimsy cart but ignites the moment it touches broken glass…
Also, Gen. McGrath has a horn over one of his ears because this movie is steampunk or some garbage. It may be one of the grossest things I’ve ever seen when McGrath tips the horn down and moist ear wax oozes out like chewing tobacco.
It should also be noted that McGrath chooses a man clearly in drag over Salma Hayek, who plays a woman named Rita Escobar. If that’s what McGrath is into, that’s fine; I’m not here to judge. But if he’s a hetero male… dude, it’s Salma Hayek. Maybe he was trying to avoid the awkwardness of what to call her like Jack Donaghy.
Froemming: OK, a few observations.
- This just rips off “The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.” If you’ve never seen that, it was great and starred Bruce (REDACTED) Campbell.
- I feel Tarantino ripped off West’s look in “Django Unchained.”
- The whole spider nonsense in this comes from Kevin Smith’s “Superman” movie, where a writer was adamant that the Man of Steel fights a giant mechanical spider. That movie was never made, but that bad idea found its way to the silver screen.
Brown: I wrote in my notes several times that this movie is the less entertaining PG version of “Django Unchained.”
Froemming: So Gordon is hypnotizing the General with his fake boobs that have that swirly stuff that was made popular by LSD. He is trying to find where this scientist is hidden, but West thinks this is a situation where McGrath is going to terrorize a woman so he smashed through the window to help.
And the whole time I was wondering who the hell thought any of this was a good idea. Who looked at the dailies and said “this is going to be great.”
Brown: They probably patted themselves on the back as well when Jim West pointed a gun at President Ulysses S. Grant after getting summoned by the Commander-in-Chief. It’s a weird tonal shift from one-liner-spouting Jim West to pointing a gun at the President.
Froemming: Why? You have something against a black guy, after the Civil War of all events, pointing a gun at a white guy? That was basically “Django Unchained” and it was amazing.
Brown: This is not a good enough movie to make that anything but awkward. This scene is followed shortly by jokes about Artemus’ fake boobs.
Anyways, President Grant assigns Jim West and Artemus the task of finding a group of America’s top scientists, which have all gone missing.
They have no idea where to go quite yet, but Jim and Artemus are off. Jim rides a horse because he’s a cowboy. Artemus rides a jet-powered pennyfarthing because he’s a (REDACTED) steampunk hipster. He’s the cross-section of two insufferable subcultures.
Froemming: I am still disturbed Brown outed himself as “alt-right.” I once called you a communist in the “Newsies” review, now you went in the total opposite direction. Pick a lane, Brown!
Brown: I hate you.
Froemming: Anywho, West rides his horse to catch up with Artemus, who uses a doodad (technical term) to spring West into the train.
But what happened to his horse? The horse didn’t spring into the train. And it comes back later. I may be overthinking this, but what a crappy thing to do to the horse, all leaving it behind and whatnot. And how did it find its way back to West? I am troubled by all of this.
Anyway, while on the train, we have these two basically bickering at one another. It wasn’t really funny. I don’t really remember much of it beyond more gay jokes about fake boobs.
This movie, Sandler Month, global pandemic, Brown going all Richard Spencer on us, 2020 is already one of the worst years I can remember.
Brown: This movie also finds a way to make a severed head even more terrifying when Artemus uses the head of the man from the pre-credit scene as a projector to show that McGrath is going to a party in New Orleans.
Like, even when Jason Vorhees lobs off a horny teenager’s head, he has the decency to let the corpse be.
Froemming: That head was as disturbing as Jason’s mother’s head he keeps in his shanty in those movies. I like horror movies a lot, but this was a bit much for me.
Brown: We get to the party and Bai Ling is a character named Miss East and is portraying a sexy, exotic Asian character because Hollywood is #SoWhite.
Froemming: Hollywood here is #SoRacist.
Brown: During the party, an Abe Lincoln cake/paper mache sculpture blows up like we’re in Ford’s Theater and out comes Dr. Arliss Loveless, who apparently is a big fan of My Bloody Valentine’s work in 1991.
Loveless was thought to be dead. Turns out, the ex-Confederate scientist just had the lower part of his body blown off and now gets around with what looks like a coal-powered wheelchair.
Question: How has he lived this long? That chair emits a LOT of black smoke, which I imagine is no better than sucking on a tailpipe. He would have died via carbon monoxide poisoning.
More important question: How does Loveless poop?
Froemming: Loveless is a role Danny McBride was born to play, but alas, he was not around when this was made. Loveless looks and acts pretty much like Kenny Powers.
And we get some banter between West and Loveless pointing out West is a black man and Loveless is a cripple, which was then stolen for “Scary Movie 2.” Hollywood, where people somehow fail upward.
And we get this bit where a woman who looks like Artemus in drag earlier is confused for him by West. This leads to a lynching scene, which I would love to get the #HotTake on this from our alt-right friend Brown.
Brown: Rednecks trying to lynch a person for being black are garbage people. Just like you, Froemming. I wish you’d suck on Loveless’ chair exhaust.
Prior to this, Loveless and McGrath set up a rendezvous point for a weapon for later that night. Jim is able to find the location by rubbing a pencil over Loveless’ notepad. It went something like this.
Froemming: West has had a long (REDACTED) day man, and he hates the (REDACTED) Eagles!
We also have Gordon freeing Rita Escobar from a cage in Loveless’ private chambers, which is good but this character isn’t so much a character as she is a plot device to get these two jealous over her attention for the rest of the movie.
This is a garbage movie.
So, they get on Gordon’s train, Rita sneaks aboard, and West wants to throw her off as she will be a “distraction.” IE, plot device. Whomever wrote this movie should have been forever shunned from Hollywood.
Brown: It will comfort you to know this movie was nominated for nine Razzies, winning five. Hella, Samla Hayek and Kevin Kline (in drag, specifically) were both nominated for worst supporting actress.
But, to make you angry, Froemming: This movie grossed $222.1 million on a $170 million budget. And the director, Barry Sonnenfeld, directed “The Addams Family,” which is a loved movie.
Froemming: I am well aware people are stupid, Brown. They are hoarding toilet paper, but not buying soap in these dark times.
Brown: At the rendezvous, a tank emerges out of a lake and guns down all of McGrath’s ex-Confederate soldiers. And, McGrath gets gunned down by Loveless and is left for dead.
Nothing of value was lost that night. (REDACTED) the Confederacy.
Froemming: Killed them with a weird-ass tank thing. And when Gordon and West show up and see the slaughter, West says he knows what did it. He saw it or something when his family was gunned down in their prime. Maybe he should have sounded the alarm on such a thing sooner.
Well, now it is time to catch up to Loveless who has these weapons of mass destruction and these two dingdongs have their pistols and Rube Goldberg doodads on their side. As you imagine, it goes sideways on them pretty quickly.
Brown: Well, Jim goes after Loveless by hopping on his train, only to nearly die after what I can only describe as Native American Oddjob from the James Bond franchise tried to garrote Jim. After neutralizing that threat, Jim blows up the tank by clogging the exhaust.
But, Loveless rigged up a giant harpoon and did his best Scorpion impression to stop Jim and Artemus’ train.
With Jim and Artemus subdued, Loveless kidnaps Rita while our heroes have giant magnets on their neck that’ll attract saw blades like the beginning of the movie.
It’s then we find out that those saw blades are shot out from what I can only describe as an H.R. Giger dick machine.
Froemming: Also, dick jokes were huge in the ’90s. I didn’t think it was funny, but somebody probably did.
Well, these two start messing around with these magnetic-dick-doodads and must have escaped them when I was in a blacked-out rage at this stupidity of this movie, because I do not remember how they got out of them. Just suddenly they found hidden train tracks in the desert that Loveless uses for his whatchamacallit machine. Or he stole Gordon’s train, I have no recollection of these details.
But Loveless does crash a party President Grant is hosting in Utah, the connection of railroads, a concept that is only interesting to historians and Ayn Rand. He takes the president hostage and does that villain exposition dump where he spills the beans on the big plan: He is going to divide the country up like this is a Philip K. Dick novel.
Who gets a piece of this confusing pie?
Great Britain, France, Spain, Mexico, the Native American people and our legless wonder himself. This makes zero sense for so many reasons. But hey, that could be the tagline for this movie. “Wild Wild West: It Makes Zero Sense For So Many Reasons.”
Brown: Loveless wants to United States Government to surrender to him like an InfoWars’ reader’s wet dream.
The way Loveless intends to do this: With a (REDACTED) monster mechanical spider. But let’s be honest, it’s a…
Essentially, this game is a video game plot. And not a well-executed video game plot.
As President Grant is about to pound a ceremonial railroad spike into the ground to combine a railroad from the Atlantic to the Pacific, Loveless marches in with his mechanical spider that somehow sneaks up on everyone?!
How does a (REDACTED) 60-foot metal spider sneak up on anyone? Thing is as flimsy as a K’Nex toy and is as loud as a jetliner on a runway. But it’s apparently sneaky enough for Loveless to abduct both President Grant and a disguised Artemus.
Froemming: What Loveless was not counting on was the foreshadowing we got earlier when Gordon spoke about Leonardo’s flying machine contraption, which does not work. Because this comes in handy when West needs to save the day by dropping bombs on the spider from the sky, only to be shot down by machine guns or something. This movie makes very little sense.
Brown: Jim also gets shot and falls off the giant 60-foot spider and survives.
OK movie, I’ll buy that Jim survived the gunshot to the torso because he wore the chainmail that Artemus created.
But to act as though a 60-foot fall doesn’t at least slow down Jim West?! (REDACTED) you, movie.
Froemming: Didn’t you know that chainmail people wear at Renaissance festivals are bulletproof?
Anyway, defying logic, West is able to get up after that huge fall with no issues to his spine, legs, arms, skull and whatnot. It is a medical miracle. And he gets back on the train, to fight Loveless, who now also has spider legs, because this movie has no decent ideas.
And so we get this stupid fight, which ends with Gordon shooting one of Loveless’ spider legs with a peashooter, thus stopping him in his tracks. While this is all going on, the big spider machine is heading toward a cliff like it is the train from “Back to the Future Part III,” and made me wish I was watching that movie instead.
Brown: You are missing out on how we got to this stupid fight: By Will Smith dressing up as a belly dancer.
Froemming: I wouldn’t say I am missing anything about this movie.
Brown: Good point.
Will Smith, the late ‘90s-’00s archetype of masculinity. The guy who has made out with every attractive lady in this movie. He tries to pass as a sexy woman whose idea of arousing Loveless is to coo like a dying bird.
While this was all going on, everyone that’s at this meeting where Loveless is talking about how to split up the USA is now watching Loveless figuratively masturbate to Will Smith in drag. You know, since he literally cannot masturbate…
Then, that’s when we get to the stupid fight.
Proceed from here, Froemming.
Froemming: Well, the spider thing stops somehow, but it launches Loveless and West out the back, where West hangs on to our baddie so he doesn’t plummet to his death. Considering he already survived such a fall, I don’t get why West is so worried here.
Loveless says he isn’t sure to hang on or kill them both by releasing some lever. West does it for him, because why the hell not and Loveless falls to his death while West grabs some chain or something that is pretty conveniently there for him.
Long story short, this is how the Secret Service came to be. Grant has another mission for them in Washington DC, and these two ride off into the sunset, which is west and DC is east. Because everything about this movie is wrong.
Brown: Also, we find out that Rita, who had told our heroes she was trying to save her father, who was a scientist, was actually her husband. The look on Jim and Artemus’ faces, all I could think of is the end of “Dumb and Dumber.” I was cackling.
From there, I think Jim and Artemus took the metal spider with the mission to destroy the Union due to their sexual frustrations.
And cue Will Smith song!
Froemming: I’d rather plummet 60 feet to the Earth. Let’s go to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: Nope. This movie is an outright dud. It made Will Smith, the coolest guy in the world at the time, look like a tool.
Froemming: No. This movie rightly destroyed Smith’s career for a while.