Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: Cowboys and Aliens is All Mixed Up

Plus, The Smurfs has critics feeling blue, and Crazy, Stupid, Love is sharp and funny.

by | July 29, 2011 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got bronco-busters and extraterrestrials (Cowboys and Aliens, starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford), little blue people (The Smurfs, starring Neil Patrick Harris and Katy Perry), and modern romance (Crazy, Stupid, Love, starring Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling). What do the critics have to say?

Cowboys and Aliens


What is Cowboys and Aliens? Is it a Western? A sci-fi thriller? An homage? A parody? Well, say critics, it’s all those things and more, though it’s not quite as seamless – or as fun – as one might have hoped, given the talents involved (and the B-movie promise of its undeniably awesome title). Daniel Craig stars as a mysterious man with no memory of his past who stumbles into a rough-and-tumble town called Absolution, where he’s treated with disdain by a tyrannical lawman (Harrison Ford). However, when hostile space invaders blast away at the community, they turn to the stranger for help. Critics say what could have been a giddy, action-packed romp is bogged down by serious tonal problems; though Cowboys and Aliens has a top-notch cast and moments of genre-bending fun, we’re never sure how seriously to take the action onscreen, and the result is an odd hybrid that never fully takes flight. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Craig’s best-reviewed films, as well as our gallery of movie genre mashups.)

The Smurfs


Many a Gen-Xer has a soft spot for the Smurfs, those diminutive blue folks who enlivened our youthful Saturday mornings. Unfortunately, not all is smurfy in Smurfland; critics say the live action/ CGI hybrid The Smurfs is pretty thin stuff, an unfunny, less-than-thrilling family film with plenty of crass innuendo but almost no magic. Neil Patrick Harris stars as a New York workaholic who must help the Smurfs get back to their village – they’ve been chased out by their archenemy Gargamel, and they must navigate the Big Apple in the meantime. The pundits say The Smurfs feels like a nostalgic cash-grab, with a generic plot and little of the charm that made these elfin creatures appealing to begin with.

Crazy, Stupid, Love


When it comes to romantic comedies, sometimes great acting can give shape to uneven material. Critics say that’s largely the case with Crazy, Stupid, Love, a fitfully rewarding effort enlivened by its star power. Steve Carell stars as a newly divorced middle-aged guy who hasn’t been on a date in years and has almost no way with the ladies. He ends up tagging along with a good-looking younger playboy (Ryan Gosling) and learning a thing or two about contemporary amour. The pundits say Crazy, Stupid, Love too often resorts to sitcommy scenarios, though it’s also insightful, funny, and occasionally quite touching, thanks to a cast that also includes Emma Stone and Julianne Moore.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • The Interrupters, a documentary about a group of “violence interrupters” who attempt to combat urban violence in Chicago, is at 100 percent.

  • The Guard, starring Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle in a dramedy about a gruff Irish policeman who teams with an incredulous FBI agent on a drug investigation, is at 93 percent (Check out our interview with Gleeson here).

  • Attack the Block, an action/comedy about a group of inner city London kids who defend the city against an alien invasion, is Certified Fresh at 91 percent.

  • The Future, directed by and starring Miranda July in the tale of an unmarried couple whose maturity is tested after adopting a stray cat, is at 91 percent.

  • Point Blank, a French thriller about a nurse who finds himself caught in the crossfire of rival gangsters as he attempts to save his kidnapped wife and child, is at 88 percent.

  • Sleep Furiously, a lyrical documentary about life in a Welsh farming community, is at 79 percent.

  • Good Neighbors, starring Scott Speedman and Jay Baruchel in a thriller about the residents of an apartment building who become fascinated with a series of local murders, is at 65 percent.

  • The Devil’s Double, starring Dominic Cooper in a dual role as Saddam Hussein’s hard-partying son Uday and as his reluctant body double, is at 61 percent.

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