Wyatt Earp (1994) Lawrence Kasdan

Production Budget: $63 million
Gross: $25 million

As I said in the Red Planet review, movie trends seem to come in twos: Red Planet and Mission to Mars, Dante’s Peak and Volcano, Deep Impact and Armageddon, The Golden Child and Big Trouble in Little China, Saving Private Ryan and Thin Red Line, and the subjects of today Wyatt Earp and Tombstone.  Kevin Costner was actually initially involved with the production of Tombstone first.  However when he didn’t like the direction the script went for Tombstone he decided to pair up with Kasdan to make their own Earp movie.  This movie focused more on being a semi-biographical pic that told the life story of Wyatt Earp instead of a story of just the OK Corral.  It was due to the clout wielded by both Costner and Kasdan that producers financed the project and were able to get so many stars involved.  The movie bombed compared to Tombstone and was even nominated for several Razzies.

Is it any good?  That’s debatable.  Okay, in my usual fashion let me bust this review down piece by piece.

First the acting.  The cast is loaded with talent from actors like Gene Hackman, Tom Sizemore, Bill Pullman, Dennis Quaid, Michael Madsen, Mark Harmon, and Isabella Rossellini.  To single one person out for distinction, I have to give props to Dennis Quaid who does a really good Doc Holliday.  I know Val Kilmer is now the best Doc Holliday ever, but Quaid does a good job of making a different and compelling version of Wyatt’s friend.  The worst in my opinion has to go to Kevin Costner as the titular character.  This was surprising as he is usually great in Westerns like Dances with Wolves and Open Range.  However it seems he (like many others) has confused stoic and tortured with acting bored and droning your lines like you drank NyQuil prior to every shot.  Compare that with Kurt Russell who didn’t say much with his words but said a lot with his expressions, his face and his eyes.

Next the story.  I appreciate the attempt and the passion Costner and Kasdan had in trying to tell the life story of Earp instead of making a glory story of the fight at the OK Corral.  I found it for the most part interesting despite a few, shall we say, factual errors.  The main problems are that its overlong and dry/stuffy material.  The movie really didn’t need to be over three hours.  Stuff like Wyatt meeting Bat Masterson is interesting to the historical context, but its close to 25 minutes and it doesn’t contribute ANYTHING to the overall story.  Its just like “Hey, isn’t that Bat Masterson?  It is!  Hey, you wanna play Marshall and Deputy with me?”  The whole movie feels dry like we are watching an amateur re-enactment at an old west tourist town.  I’m not blaming the actors on this, I am blaming the writers.  The dialog is so creaky, stuffy, formal, and slow moving that I don’t know how you make it better.  While I was watching this, I was not getting the impression I was seeing real people freely interacting with one another but actors saying lines written by a historian on what he thinks these characters would have said based on witness accounts and data at the time.  I don’t know if that makes any sense but I’m trying my best here.  Also, in a very bizarre twist, we really don’t see that much of our villains the Clantons or McLaurys.  We see Ike in a total of two scenes and in the final fight Doc had to exclaim “JOHNNY RINGO!!!” before killing him I figure in a last desperate attempt to remind the audience of who the hell was playing him.  When I saw that scene I seriously said to myself “Johnny Ringo!?  Where the f*ck was he during this movie?”  I really don’t think he did a damn thing this whole movie.  How could we devote so little screen time to the MAIN VILLAINS of the movie?

Kasdan does an alright job of framing the whole movie with the usual Western standards of beautiful landscapes and dusty trails.  The music is also alright if not a little stock and not very memorable.  I bash on this movie a lot but I actually didn’t mind watching it…twice (once originally when it came out instead of watching Tombstone *slaps self*).  There are some really good scenes and some of the performances make it slightly enjoyable.  I really don’t understand getting a nomination for a Razzie for Worst Picture.  Its not THAT bad.  Would I recommend it?  Not really.  But this is the third Costner bomb and frankly I hope there’s not anymore on the horizon.

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