<em>Cowboys & Aliens</em>

Throughout this sometimes entertaining and eye-popping and often drudgery-filled summer popcorn number, a nagging little voice keeps seeping into our consciousness, begging the eternal question: “Are we having fun yet?” Most often, the answer is not really. Fun should be the upshot of this freely ranging adaptation of the graphic novel, starting with its very oxymoronic title. It could have been the Snakes on a Plane of summer 2011, all “mofo-ing cowboys and mofo-ing aliens!” But no. Director Jon (Iron Man) Favreau gets his CGI fixins and action-packin’ yayas out here but forgets to inject the irony or have some fun in the process.

As the name implies, the story is a willful hybrid of cinematic Western lore (right down to Harry Gregson-Williams’s impressively sweeping orchestral score and the equally sweeping New Mexican landscapes) and sci-fi flick whoosh and gore. Thus we get lots of goopy alien innards splattering amid the flying bullets and horseback riding cowboys and Indians. Lean, mean man of few words Daniel Craig is the classic laconic stranger who comes into town from whereabouts unknown, even to himself, having been through his own alien abduction/amnesiac processing. Harrison Ford is the seemingly evil but actually principled cattle magnate who keeps this two-horse Arizona town alive and fearful, and keeps a posse chasing the alien invaders who have abducted a group of townsfolk. Into the mix comes the lovely lady (Olivia Wilde), who not only crosses genre archetype lines, but apparently has some wicked intergalactic mojo going on.

Imagine the possibilities and gag setups. Unfortunately, it all stays within the realm of imagination and untapped possibilities. Perhaps Favreau and Co. should have taken more cues from the self-effacing, wit-built other heroic alter ego of Craig’s, James Bond. This time out, he doesn’t quite get the girl, or the joke, if there is one.


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