Monday, August 1, 2011
"Cowboys & Aliens" (2011)
With the most boneheaded and literal movie title since perhaps "Snakes on a Plane," there should be no room for sentimentality in "Cowboys & Aliens" from director Jon Favreau ("Iron Man"). Taking itself way too seriously for its title, there's too much schmaltz coating what otherwise should've been a rollicking romp out of the toy box pitting two character types in a head-to-head battle. It's a movie about cowboys and aliens -- obviously -- not the end of the world. Tone it down a notch, let loose a little bit and have some fun.
This lack of fun lends to the movie's failure as a genre mash-up. Set in a rural mining town in 1873 with a boozing saloon, local sheriff, reckless gunslinger and a bunch of rugged cowboys, why not throw in an alien invasion? It's funny because when the first attack occurs, none of the citizens seem concerned about the manufacturing behind an alien invasion of such magnitude. I mean, these people don't even know air travel -- let alone automobiles -- and yet they're not fazed by flying spacecrafts shooting down beams of light that torch their town and abduct defenseless victims. In any case, Favreau and his team of writers take the worst clichés from westerns and sci-fi flicks and carelessly cram them together without offering up anything new. These two genres are so appealing that the concept of them teaming up easily put a smile on my face; that is, until I witnessed how noisy, messy, leaden and downright boring the results turned out.
It's a shame, too, because Daniel Craig as the cold and hardened outlaw Jake Longergan wears the American drawl well and plays up the classic western figure of a bad man rising too goodness with nice finesse. I wouldn't mind seeing him later on starring in his own western -- minus the aliens. And then there's Harrison Ford who's a hoot as a crotchety old colonel. When these two share screen time, they're snarky cool. The issue is that it happens maybe twice. Their potential comic timing together is vastly underused.
Olivia Wilde looks astoundingly too attractive for the scenery around her, Sam Rockwell lands his first bland role and Paul Dano is, well, his kooky self. The characters involved in the Old West alien takeover may as well be as faceless as those attacking them. Speaking of which, these guys are grotesque. With bugged-out eyes and a chest cavity that opens up to reveal slimy and spindly arms, watching them get disposed of is at least satisfying. The violence is gruesome considering the PG-13 rating and is shown frequently throughout the repetitious action set pieces that become increasingly dull and inane.
Want the closest thing to cowboy and alien action without subjecting yourself to this? Think back to the imaginative opening of "Toy Story 3" with Buzz Lightyear and Woody. There you go.