Film review: The good, the bad and the alien

'Cowboys and Aliens' is OK, while 'The Smurfs' is unbearable

August 01, 2011|BY BOB GARVER | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • In this publicity image released by Universal Pictures, Harrison Ford, left, and Daniel Craig are shown in a scene from "Cowboys & Aliens."
AP Photo/Universal Pictures, Timothy White

 Early estimates indicate a virtual tie for the No. 1 position at the weekend box office. With two new releases enjoying equal success, I feel it's appropriate to take a look at both of them.

"Cowboys and Aliens" is the third big alien invasion movie of 2011 after "Battle: Los Angeles" and "Super 8." We've seen aliens defeated by modern soldiers and we've seen them defeated by kids in the 1960s.  

To even the playing field, director Jon Favreau sets the film in Arizona in 1873. The aliens have technology that is futuristic even by today's standards, the humans are still six years away from Thomas Edison's version of the light bulb.  

I'll give credit to the team that designed the aliens, they have created some nasty creatures.  They're ugly of course, and they have the surprising feature of extra appendages hidden in their torsos. It's practically a requirement in these movies that the aliens' insides make disgusting squishy sounds. But it's more tolerable than usual in this movie because the aliens are perfectly fine with making humans' insides make squishy sounds as well.  

Humanity shouldn't stand a chance, but we have Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig. Craig's purpose is to fight aliens and he does a decent job of it. Ford's purpose is to act like Harrison Ford and he does a hacky job of it. Just like in his last few movies, he's all growling and surliness, and he's lost a few steps when it comes to action sequences.  I think Ford has finally reached the point where he can no longer carry action movies.  

A number of popular outer space movies like "Star Wars" are heavily influenced by Westerns, and I think "Cowboys and Aliens" is supposed to be something of an opposite; a sci-fi movie set in the West. It's also opposite from "Star Wars" in that it's impossible to find a decently written human character and the aliens once again have no personalities.

"Cowboys and Aliens" might have a unique premise, but the dull characters ultimately make it an uninteresting movie.  

Two Stars out of Five. 

"Cowboys and Aliens" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of Western and sci-fi action and violence, some partial nudity, and a brief crude reference.  Its running time is 118 minutes.  

"The Smurfs"
  There is nothing good about "The Smurfs." If you have seen so much as one trailer or advertisement for the film, you already know that. I give you fair warning, this film is every bit as painful as you're afraid it is. If not more.  

The Smurfs are cutesy little blue creatures that live in a hidden village in a land far away.  Uni-traited Smurfs like the fatherly Papa Smurf, the contrarian Grouchy Smurf, and the female Smurfette (voiced by Katy Perry, a casting move that probably tripled the movie's kid appeal) all live in harmony. One day Clumsy Smurf gets himself and five other Smurfs sucked through a vortex along with their sworn enemy Gargamel (Hank Azaria).

The Smurfs end up in New York City where they befriend a cosmetics executive (Neil Patrick Harris) and turn his life upside down with their Smurf antics. They were annoying enough in their own element, it is super-irritating watching them adapt to our culture. And I'm pretty sure the film has a dreaded breakdancing scene. I can't be positive because I spent so much time trying to look at anything but the screen.  

The humor in the movie is grating, perhaps most unfunny and inappropriate is a running gag about the word "Smurf" itself being profane in certain contexts. Then again "The Smurfs" is such a crime against cinema that I can see regarding it as an obscenity.  

One Star out of Five

"The Smurfs" is rated PG for mild rude humor and action.  Its running time is 109 minutes.

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