Jon Favreau’s Cowboys and Aliens, which premiered last week at ComicCon in San Diego and opens today in mega-release, takes a while to get going and will make you utter “good grief” more than once at its often ridiculous plot and dialog but ultimately is a really good time as an old-fashioned western with some sci-fi thrown in. Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford are solid as rocks in their respective roles as “bad guy with a good heart” Jake Lonergan and “former Civil War colonel/crusty rancher“ Woodrow Dolarhyde. If you’ve seen the trailer (and honestly how could you have missed it?), you’ll know that the movie opens with Lonergan waking up in 1875 New Mexico territory sporting no memory, no shoes, a giant wound and a weird metal cuff on his wrist. Three menacing cowboys ride up and soon Longergan not only has their boots, clothes and guns, he has a horse and a dog and is heading toward Absolution (the town, not the event). Here the plot will introduce us to Dolarhyde’s wayward son (Paul Dano), the town sheriff (Keith Carradine), a beautiful and mysterious young woman (Olivia Wilde), the town’s doctor and barkeep (Sam Rockwell) and an invasion by aliens—say what?! Here we go. Along the way, director Jon Favreau manages to fit in everything but the kitchen sink as well as every classic western line you remember. Stop groaning and just enjoy the ride. And remember–the second half does get better.
BTW: I am a big Jon Favreau fan. We all know him as the director of Elf, Iron Man and Iron Man 2, and most of us remember his awesome performance in Swingers which he wrote for his best bud Vince Vaughn, but did you ever catch his TV series Dinner for Five (2001-2005)? In it, he hosted four of his Hollywood colleagues every week to a fine dinner where they talked shop or just talked. Great fun. For a sample, catch this YouTubeof Eddie Izzard (with Will Ferrell) discussing what “trans-gender” means in one episode.
ON LOCATION: Cowboys and Aliens was shot almost entirely near the Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico. This is Georgia O’Keefe country and is well worth your visit next time you’re out west. And be sure to check out Plaza Blanca, where the final battle for this movie was shot.