Cowboys & Aliens

The floors of venture capitalists everywhere are littered with the crumbled up dreams of great concepts that didn’t work. New Coke. Compassionate Conservatism. The Segway. That last one was going to change transportation as we know it – who could have predicted that people wouldn’t want to ride around on a really expensive stand-up scooter that made you look like Rosie the Robot sans frilly apron?

Hollywood has some waste baskets filled with these can’t-miss ideas as well, but you can’t always tell that until they’ve been made into films. I’m sure producers all over town were salivating when the concept of Cowboys & Aliens was pitched. It’s cowboys! And they fight aliens! It’s like taking chocolate and peanut butter and combining them into one genre! You don’t even need a trailer to describe the plot – it’s all right there in the title! And then cast James Bond and Indiana Jones as the leads, and you can pretty much write the check for the biggest hit of the summer.

Well, maybe not. You also need a good script, snappy dialogue, and some aliens that don’t look like a bizarre combination of The Thing and Vinz Clortho, also known as “The Keymaster,” the gargoyle-like dog from Ghostbusters.

The film opens with an amnesia-ridden Daniel Craig waking up in the desert with a strange iron cuff on his wrist. He eventually ends up in a town run by Harrison Ford and his spoiled brat son, where the men of few words exchange dialogue and plot points that have been ripped off from every Western ever produced. I believe this is called “homage,” but it’s an insult to John Houston. The dialogue is not just cliché but boring, and Daniel Craig’s craggy visage is so stone-faced that it’s hard to know anything about his character. Also, he’s starting to look like Roy Scheider, which I thought was odd. Harrison Ford was never much of an actor, but he was always fun to watch. Now he just seems mad all the time, even more angry than when he was in that terrible film Morning Glory. Maybe he should just stay home and try to get Calista to eat a sandwich.

Alien ships attack the town and start lassoing townsfolk from their spaceships. (See?! It sounds great on paper! It just looks stupid on film.) We discover that Daniel Craig had also been captured and escaped and can use his mysterious cuff as a weapon to fight the aliens, but why would they have put the cuff on him if it could be used against them? Olivia Wilde sulks around as a mysterious stranger who may know how to stop the invasion, but frankly she should just go back to diagnosing lupus on House; she has no personality on film. The aforementioned aliens are pinheaded and move in a jerky fashion, as if the producers used CGI techniques that were a few decades old. Oh yeah, some Apache Indians get involved, too, marking off the final cliché on the old Western checklist, but here they are allowed to be the good guys as the aliens are taking over their role as the bloodthirsty savages. Everyone unites to fight the aliens – it’s like Independence Day with horses!

This is by far the worst movie that I have seen all year, and I don’t mean that in vomit-inducing way. I would have welcomed nausea because it would have given me an excuse to leave the theatre. Hell, I would have welcomed 3D, although I’m pretty sure that Daniel Craig’s facial expressions wouldn’t have looked anymore lively with another dimension added to the mix. This film cost $160 million dollars to make, and it tied at the box office with The Smurfs on opening weekend. Maybe they should have combined the concepts and used the creepy blue dudes as the aliens. Watching the cowboys blow away Papa Smurf would have made a fine ending to a summer filled with too many gimmicks and not enough plot.

Barf Bag Rating: ZERO BAGS
Jalapeño Rating: ZERO PEPPERS

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