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'Cowboys and Aliens' review: Fun in theory, not in execution

** (out of four)

For something new and different in the Western genre: A tough guy (Daniel Craig) in 1873 Arizona has no name and no recollection of his past. (That is, until his name, Jake Lonergan, and simple background are soon revealed and all mystery disappears.) The different part is that while a bunch of cowboys (including Harrison Ford) try to out-macho Jake and a fetching gal (Olivia Wilde) bats her eyes at him, aliens attack.
 
The buzz: How convenient that Indiana Jones just confronted extraterrestrials so Ford can know his way around this sort of adventure. (Yes, I know he was Han Solo too.) Less convenient is that last year's disappointing "Iron Man 2" suggests director Jon Favreau may have forgotten how to deliver lively entertainment.
 
The verdict: “Cowboys and Aliens” escalates as mildly as a spaceship scared to fly any way other than in a straight line. The premise may sound like a slam-dunk, but not when it's the only unique detail in a predictable movie that's like a shallow approximation of other, better genre movies. Little pieces are just right on their own--reminder: Craig is the MAN--but the five-person screenwriting team, adapting a 2006 graphic novel, makes the mash-up awkward instead of a blast. I don’t care if you write “Pirates and Dinosaurs” or “Unicorns vs. Robots,” you can’t go on lunch after coming up with the title.
 
Did you know? Doc (Sam Rockwell) notes that either God isn’t up there or “He just doesn’t like me very much.” Which would make you feel better, sir?

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Fridays at 7 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, CT Now
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