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WGUC Reviews

Cowboys & Aliens

Cowboys & Aliens
Universal Studios
Rated PG-13
Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas

Hollywood seems to have a knack of turning success into excess. Take Jon Favreau for example. He transitioned nicely from actor to director, and got to take well-earned bows for both of the Irom Man epics. Unfortunately, kudos will not likely follow for his third effort Cowboys and Aliens. This incoherent, howling-dog mess of a movie is hard to assimilate, and even harder to find someone to like among the characters. It’s a perfect example of too many chefs adding a different ingredient to a stew. There are four credits for screen story, five credits for screenplay, and sixteen credited producers, be they assistant, associate, executive, or whatever, including both Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg.

Although the title tells you the plot, Cowboys and Aliens is like two separate films spliced together. It had the makings of just a good western, but when you get to the aliens it just gets silly. The aliens look like Transformers covered with chewed Gummy Bears. They drag their knuckles when they walk, and though they possess intelligence enough to fly their spacecraft to earth, they have no comprehension of English, or any other language.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the nine credited writers stoop to using every western cliché in both dialogue and situation that have galloped across the screen for a hundred years. I was tempted to laugh out loud at some of these stale chestnuts, but was so miserable sitting there it wasn’t worth the effort.

I really wanted to like this film. I love westerns, the cast is capable, it generally looks good on screen, and, while the score by Harry Gregson-Williams isn’t great, it’s western-ish enough to be ok. Daniel Craig is a cowboy with amnesia and a strange bracelet strapped on his wrist, but he’s still in James Bond mode. Harrison Ford plays a cranky old cattle baron with a weakling son. And Paul Dano, who was so annoying in There Will Be Blood, has not improved since that film. He’s like fingernails on a blackboard every time he opens his mouth.

Supporting players are better. Olivia Wilde is the mysterious lady of the story. Some great character actors like Keith Carradine, Sam Rockwell, and Urbana, Ohio, native Clancy Brown do their usual fine work in brief scenes.

As the film crawls to its obvious conclusion, and you start wondering why there are no Indians in this western… here come the Indians.

There could have been a good film in here if given the proper treatment, like maybe with Clint Eastwood as star and director, with Matt Damon along for the ride. Or there could have been a good film in here if Mel Brooks, Blazing Saddles-style, lampooned it. Too bad he wouldn’t have been able to make a Cowboys and Aliens with Gabby Hayes and Lady Gaga. But what’s here is turgid and pretty well unbearable. Find yourself something better to watch.

The PG-13 rated Cowboys and Aliens is now showing everywhere.


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