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Originally published July 28, 2011 at 12:04 AM | Page modified July 28, 2011 at 2:31 PM

Movie review

'Cowboys & Aliens' isn't even good popcorn fun

In her review of "Cowboys & Aliens," the big-budget Western/sci/fi mash-up starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, Moira Macdonald points out that the goofy title alone indicated the film wasn't going to be a work of high cinematic art, but she at least expected it to be good popcorn fun. Instead, it was oddly serious and not much fun at all. The film is playing at several theaters in Seattle.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2 stars

'Cowboys & Aliens,' with Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Adam Beach, Paul Dano, Noah Ringer. Directed by Jon Favreau, from a screenplay by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby. 118 minutes. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of Western and sci-fi action and violence, some partial nudity and a brief crude reference. Several theaters.

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Five credited screenwriters, and this is the best they can do?

"Cowboys & Aliens," the big-budget Western/sci-fi mash-up starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, clearly wasn't going to be a work of high cinematic art; the goofy title alone ruled that out. But I thought it might be good popcorn fun, and so did the teenager who accompanied me. He'd been looking forward to the movie for some time. Forty minutes in, with Craig squinting and Ford growling and some random flying saucers showing up in 1875 New Mexico Territory, I looked over at my companion: He'd fallen asleep.

Surprising — you might have guessed that a movie named "Cowboys & Aliens" would be either a hilarious romp or a horrendously misguided flop, rather than a mediocre-to-dull slog that seemed geared, despite its volume, to encourage slumber.

Craig plays a mysterious stranger who turns up in a desert town with an incongruously futuristic-looking metal wristband and a permanent scowl. He's not welcomed by the town, least of all by Colonel Dolarhyde (Ford), who apparently has no use for people who scowl more than he does. But these hostilities mean little when a mysterious aircraft descends and the stranger's wristband starts beeping, like he's being paged by a restaurant hostess. Western mayhem ensues, all of it quite expensive- looking, and none of it particularly compelling.

Perhaps that's all audiences will want from this very silly yet weirdly serious movie, filled with people getting shot or punched out or attacked by random shiny aliens. But there's none of the teasing fun here that director Jon Favreau brought to the first "Iron Man" movie — the sense of being in on the joke. Maybe he should have cast Robert Downey Jr., instead of two taciturn leading men who deliver their lines in a dueling deadpan that ensures we keep these characters at arm's length, just as the actors do. It might keep viewers awake to imagine Craig's character as a sort of 19th-century James Bond in chaps, peeved because nobody's around to make him a martini. Or maybe not.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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