This is the story of The Regulators. No wait, this is the story of Billy the Kid. No this is the story of how Billy the Kid met Pat Garrett. Oh hell, it’s all of that and essentially a remake of “The Cowboys.” Rather than a small group of boys who avenge their mentor in a dramatic finale, this group of young men avenges their caretaker in the beginning and we’re stuck with them for the duration. And they do so in a very long and cheesy Western that jumps in and out of so many sub-plots that it becomes exhausting. Christopher Cain’s “Young Guns” is really only a film you’ll likely love if you were between 13 and 19 in 1988. It’s another attempt to tack the brat pack on to a movie genre, and it pretty much fails from the moment we’re introduced to various characters in a goofy opening credits sequence. Every character is essentially some kind of gimmicky contributor to the narrative, only delivering broad Western cliches.
As we all saw with Tarantino a few years ago, the idea of Will Smith in a Western isn’t a bad one. Smith has a modern look that’s not accessible for every film, but with the right director Smith could shine. It’s just too bad he straddled himself to Barry Sonnenfeld who casts Will in one of the most poorly conceived TV to movie adaptations of all time. “Wild Wild West” is worse than “Beverly Hillbillies” and “Charlie’s Angels” combined. What’s worse is that director Sonnenfeld has absolutely no idea how to utilize Smith in a Western setting. So by the time the movie has started, rather than rely on the pulpy martial arts theme from the original series, the movie just becomes a showcase for Will Smith to be Will Smith. Even in the old West, Smith is the wise cracking, shade wearing, cowboy who is a hit with the ladies.
John Sturges’ “The Magnificent Seven” is such a pitch perfect example of how to accomplish a remake. And Sturges has his work cut out for him as “The Magnificent Seven” is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai.” Kurosawa’s film was already considered a classic by 1960, and was a juggernaut of foreign cinema that influenced filmmakers and studios worldwide. Even today its influence over cinema is immense. So it’s no small feat that “The Magnificent Seven” is just as good as the original and can stand side by side with it as another version of the tale that is as compelling and action packed. In fact Kurosawa loved it so much he allegedly sent Sturges a ceremonial sword as a bid a token of approval for his version.
I bet Seth McFarlane would love to fancy himself this generation’s Bob Hope, or perhaps even Mel Brooks. With the hollow smile of a car salesman, and the appeal of a commercial pitch man, in reality, McFarlane comes off as just another really desperate fan boy whose love for music, dancing, and comedy doesn’t equate to entertainment. The end result is a movie that holds our hands through every joke, and then holds our hand through the expected reaction. I imagine if McFarlane directed a remake to “Blazing Saddles” eventually someone would point to Sheriff Bart, look at the audience breaking the fourth wall, and mutter “But he’s a black man! And this is the old west!”