Wyatt Earp (1994)

"I have some men I have to see." - Kevin Costner

WYATT EARP has a lot to tell and little to say. This story of the
legendary lawman runs three hours and nine minutes and that's too long
for this epic-wannabe that plays more like a TV mini-series than a

The story opens on the Earp family farm, with young Wyatt ready to run
away from home.  He wants to fight in the Civil War, but his dad (Gene
Hackman) has different ideas and wants his son to study law. Time passes
and Wyatt heads west, returns home to marry, and, after a spell, begins
his career in law enforcement. By the time he (Kevin Costner) and his
brothers (Michael Madsen, David Andrews, and Linden Ashby) arrive in
Tombstone, Wyatt has tried his hand at everything from hunting buffalo
to dealing cards.

WYATT EARP is very appealing in places-- such as cast, costumes, and
cinematography-- but an overstated story and overpowered score deaden
most of the emotional impact.  Who can be moved by scene after scene
after scene of swelling strings and suffocating speeches?  Somber is
fine-- just ask Clint Eastwood-- but this film that boasts not one, not
two, but three, count 'em three, hammy death scenes!

Still, a little bit of EARP goes a long way and the life and times of
the legendary lawman are from uninteresting stuff.  His, uh, unusual
relations with women, for example, are an intriguing contrast to his
character's credo of "nothing counts as much as blood." Equally amusing
is a buffalo hunting (and skinning!) sequence that is decidedly non-PC.

Director Lawrence Kasdan takes a refreshingly realistic approach to the
gunplay.  The infamous gunfight at the OK Corral is both brutal and
brief, devoid of almost any theatrics.  Don't look for much glorified
violence here.

Despite some large exclamation points in the story, the characters *do*
come to life. The diverse cast includes everyone from Betty Buckley (!)
to Mackenzie Astin (!!).

Kevin Costner is very good in the title role.  Dances With Whitney
nevers get as steely as the role requires, though, but his
transformation from lighthearted law student to stoic sheriff is fun to
watch. He was tougher in A PERFECT WORLD.

His foil is Dennis Quaid, who pulled a DeNiro by losing 40+ pounds to
play the tubercular terror Doc Hollday.  Gaunt *and* gamely, he's a
scene stealer who's seen too little. Other familiar faces include Tom
Sizemore (looking like Bruce McGill), Bill Pullman (looking like Jeff
Daniels), and Mare Winningham (looking like Lea Thompson). Both Gene
Hackman and Isabella Rosselini appear and disappear like magic, while
late entries Catherine O'Hara and JoBeth Williams are surprisingly

Though the story and score should've tried "less is more," all other
credits are technical tops.  Production designer Ida Random, art
director Gary Wissner, and costume designer Colleen Atwood are some of
the VIPS who helped spend what must've been an enormous budget. Clearly
no expense was spared.  (Rated "PG-13"/189 min.)

BOTTOM LINE:  Surprisingly enjoyable, but don't expect an epic.  An
overstated story and an overpowered score are two reasons why WYATT
feels more like a TV mini-series than a movie.  Ten times better than

Grade: B

Copyright 1994 by Michael J. Legeros

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