Cowboys & Aliens as reviewed in The Phantom TollboothOops, someone forgot to write a script.

Director: Jon Favreau
Stars: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde
Rating: PG-13
118 Minutes

Oops, someone forgot to write a script. Or so it seems in the new, big name blockbuster Cowboys & Aliens. Argue all you want that as long as things look good and blow up on time all will be fine at the summer theater. And for the most part that can work if the basic story is firm enough to make up for the lack of dialogue and point. But this time around there is nothing but a cool name and a groovy poster.

The premise of the movie is captivating. Aliens show up in Arizona in the 1870’s. The idea that people who have never seen an automobile now have to wrap their minds around flying space ships and extraterrestrial weaponry is unique enough. Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the middle of the desert with no memory and a weird bracelet. Before he can ask very many questions the spaceships start snatching up the town’s people. Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) runs the town and his word is even above the local law. Even he can’t get a grip on the situation. Soon everyone has to put their differences aside and figure out how to rescues their loved ones.

The cast is excellent and full of other names like Paul Dano, Sam Rockwell, Keith Carradine, and Abigail Spencer. Plus it is directed by the genius of Jon Favreau with producing credits like Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg! So what went wrong? One word. Writing. The story was so thin. It felt as if they showed up on day one of shooting and realized they didn’t have a script so they filled it with dumb clichés, some mumbled exchanges, and did their best to distract from it with gooey aliens and lots of western shootouts. It was like a really bad Friday night creature feature.

You can’t blame it on the genre. Joss Whedon proved that you can mix all sort of things together when he did Serenity. That is what I hoped for here. Action, memorable characters, and lots of fantastic, quotable lines to hold it all together. Sadly, this is just a lot of nothing. I questioned a few theater goers as we were leaving the screening and the consensus was the same; except for one small demographic. The 17-year-old gamers. So if you have those in your family they might like it. But everyone else can prepare for 2 hours of eye rolling and sighing.

Cowboys & Aliens is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of western and sci-fi action and violence, some partial nudity and a brief crude reference. The language is mild with only a few expletives. The partial nudity is a quick backside and nothing more. Mostly it is gamer style violence and some scary aliens. I can only give this 2 out of 5 cattle calls. And that is sad. I had such high hopes for this film and I have to wonder why such a stellar group of film makers couldn’t do better.

Matt Mungle

Review copyright 2011 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.