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Wednesday, August 17, 2011  

M. Ovie Reviews: Cowboys & Aliens

I've been excited about Cowboys & Aliens ever since I saw the title on Twitter and thought, dude, what a fun, stupid idea for a movie! Turns out I was only half right.

Let me start by saying my sister-in-law is the only woman I know who hates Daniel Craig. She doesn't seem to see what most people see, just a grumpy sourpuss. But maybe more people will see it in Cowboys & Aliens. I certainly did.

As is apparent from the advertising, Craig plays an Old West mystery man apparently dropped from the sky with some alien hardware locked to his wrist. Even he doesn't know who he is or where he came from, so he spends a lot of the movie seeking those answers, most of which turn out to be less interesting than you can imagine. And, almost in vindication of my sister-in-law's opinion, he mostly does it glowering from under the brim of an unflattering cowboy hat, with his mouth screwed up into a tight m. The plus side is that when he's doing that with his mouth we don't have to listen to his American accent.

In short, he doesn't appear to be having any fun at all, which is bad enough in a movie called Cowboys & Aliens. But what's even worse is that almost nobody else seems to be having very much fun either -- even director Jon Favreau, who can usually be counted on to do so. Harrison Ford plays a grizzled Civil War veteran who does a lot of glowering and tough talking, but he keeps himself from descending into self-parody in his one recent gig where self-parody seems called for. Adam Beach, formerly from Law & Order: Sex Police, has a fairly large role in his usual capacity as a charisma-sink, and Olivia Wilde's character basically kicks the Manson Lamps on high-beam and keeps them there.

Thank God for Clancy Brown and Sam Rockwell, who even as tired archetypes give it all they've got. Brown relishes his part as a crusty preacher, while Rockwell gets to deliver all of what this movie calls jokes from behind a Teddy Roosevelt moustache and spectacles. Other than those two, though, everyone else seems to be following Craig's lead and make sure everything comes off as seriously as possible. Which doesn't really seem appropriate for a movie called Cowboys & Aliens, does it?

I think therein lies the problem. Obviously a big part of marketing a movie lies with setting expectations, and I suppose I can't claim that the trailers lied to me. But if you put out a movie with that title, you're creating an impression that it's going be a fun, genre-bending mashup that lets you in on the joke. Instead, it sets out to be both a dead serious Western and a dead serious sci-fi actioner, and ends up not succeeding at either.

Instead, while you're watching Daniel Craig taunt his torturer, or Harrison Ford get captured and then form an uneasy alliance with non-English speaking indigenous life forms, you just wish you were watching them doing those things for the first time in Casino Royale and Return of the Jedi, respectively. And then you're wishing you were watching Sam Rockwell in a different genre send-up, namely Galaxy Quest. Makes it tough to enjoy this film on its own terms when it keeps messing with the terms of other films.

Seems like I've seen a lot of Westerns in the past year. Priest was a post-apocalyptic horror Western, Rango was an animated Western with a cast of talking varmints, and True Grit was, well, just a Western.

I guess I probably shouldn't be surprised that that was the best of the bunch.

posted by M. Giant 8:34 PM 3 comments

3 Comments:

I liked it.

By Blogger no-one, at August 19, 2011 at 1:20 AM  

I think the Daniel Craig grumpiness was faked -- he just married Rachel Weisz, and I think he was so goddamned happy with that and with her and the whole honeymoon phase that the only way he could deal with it for the movie was to put on Serious Grumpyface Mask, to hide the silly smiling. I doubt his mind was on the film at all.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 19, 2011 at 10:11 AM  

Cowboys & Aliens is a movie for all interest as it has action.thrill and drama.Other than brilliant performance by Harrison and Daniel Craig.I watched this movie 3 times.So you can understand how much I like this movie.

By Anonymous new movies, at September 18, 2011 at 11:57 PM  

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