Note: To my friend Danny, who loved this movie – Sorry pal! I wanted to like it. But I also wanted to like the second and third Matrix movies, and that didn’t happen either. I’m glad you enjoyed it, buddy. I fully realize I can never review a film and say “You will hate this” or, rather, “You should hate this” to anyone because we all enjoy what we enjoy, be it good or bad, classy or classless (and not in the Marxist sense). Fair enough. Enter the dragon.

Being surprised when a movie called Cowboys and Aliens is bad is a lot like being surprised when a toothpaste and orange juice smoothie tastes bad. Still, I had expected something good. Why, though? Why did I expect anything good at all to come from a film called Cowboys and Aliens?

To be fair, Daniel Craig was a convincing man of the West. He was stoic and hardened and threw punches like an outlaw. And he wore an alien bracelet that was actually a weapon. And he used it quite effectively considering it was, well, alien to him. Oh, and the aliens that built this bracelet wore the exact same bracelets but never fired them, and always seemed surprised when Daniel Craig’s character used his. Like, “Oh, so that’s what those things do!” It’s like using a toaster as one commonly uses a toaster, and then finding out that toasters are, in fact, actually designed to enable people to communicate with bread. That is, it’s a translator, and not a contraption that magically transforms bread into toast.

Lest you think I am being too harsh, I realize this is a film called Cowboys and Aliens. I would be kinder to it if only it did not insist on taking itself so seriously. I expected something along the lines of Snakes on a Plane, and instead it was like Unforgiven, but without Clint Eastwood, and without a good script, and with aliens. I could be wrong, but when you make a film called Cowboys and Aliens, you’d better be in on the joke.

Then there was Harrison Ford, who plays Harrison Ford. I like Harrison Ford. I am a child of the ’80s, after all – of Star Wars and Indiana Jones. How can I not like the man? But let’s admit something: He is always Harrison Ford. When he plays a new character it’s like putting a bonnet on a whale. At no point do you ever think to yourself, “Who, or what, is wearing that bonnet? Is that a ring-tailed lemur or an aircraft carrier or Cloris Leachman? I can’t tell because of that devilishly clever disguise.” No. It’s always readily apparent that it’s a whale. In a bonnet. And Harrison Ford is always Harrison Ford, whether he’s Han Solo or Indiana Jones or a cranky cowboy cattle rustler.

Oh, and the whole cowboys and aliens bit. The cowboys are far more convincing than the aliens, probably because they were not created with CGI. The aliens are rubbery and overly complicated in their construction. Bottom line for me: If you are a filmmaker and your aliens do not top the creatures from the Aliens franchise, you may as well hang up your alien saddle and spurs and retire to a nice extraterrestrial bungalow – maybe a ranch on Mars (a reference to a song by the now defunct Texan band The Galactic Cowboys).

You want cowboys and aliens for real? Do yourself a favor and snag a copy of Cory McAbee‘s excellent The American Astronaut, which is essentially a surrealist sci-fi noir musical Western. (See the trailer here.) It’s funny, and it knows it’s in comedic territory. Yes, serious elements can be found, but its director would never commit the cinematic crime of making a film called Dumb and Dumber and then infusing it with all of the seriousness of an Ingmar Bergman film.

See it if you must. It wasn’t thoroughly abominable. I mean, it was fun seeing a film in the theater with my friends. That enjoyment is never lost on me. But a bad film is a bad film is a bad film. Wait until it comes out on DVD. Then, rent it – don’t buy it. See it when you haven’t slept in about three days. You’re likely to enjoy it at that point, as your dopamine and serotonin levels will be so skewed that you would find World War II absolutely hilarious in such a state.