The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

« Previous Post | The Big Picture Home | Next Post »

'Cowboys & Aliens': Who hated the movie more than anyone?

August 1, 2011 | 12:56 pm

Harrison ford I know that the critics were underwhelmed by "Cowboys & Aliens," with the movie earning a lowly 44 score from Rotten Tomatoes. I know that Hollywood screenwriters were unimpressed by the movie (and its bloated list of credited writers), since two scribes emailed me Monday, taking great pleasure in its weak box office performance, which they saw as a hopeful sign that Western civilization as we know it is not entirely coming to an end. Expected to open at close to $50 million, the $165-million film barely managed to make $36.4 million, giving it a first-place ranking just ahead of "The Smurfs," which came in at $35.6 million, and even worse, leaving it with little hope of turning a profit.

But the audience that really loathed the movie the most was the audience studios especially cater to during the summer movie season: teenage boys. In fact, as statistics from the CinemaScore tracking survey show, under-18 moviegoers stayed away in droves this weekend. Under-18 moviegoers made up 32% of the overall audience for "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," 25% of the moviegoers for "Captain America" and 21% of the moviegoers for "X-Men: First Class." But only 12% of the moviegoers for "Cowboys & Aliens" were younger than 18. As any marketing expert can tell you, that -- along with mediocre reviews and dreary word of mouth -- is really bad news for the movie's long-term box office prospects.

Of course, this came as no surprise to me, because I've been driving a bunch of 13-year-old boys to baseball practice for the last few weeks, eavesdropping on their back-seat conversations. Whenever we would pass a billboard for "Cowboys & Aliens," the boys in the back seat would erupt with a new round of invective directed at the film.  

"It looks like a total crap movie," is the way one of the boys put it. "What's realistic about a movie about cowboys and aliens? Aliens don't exist, but cowboys do -- so what are they doing in the same movie?" One of the other boys piped up: "It looks so stupid. The cowboys only have dumb little pistols and horses, so how could they fight aliens with exploding lasers? It's just no competition."

As a coup de grace, another boy, an obvious Roger Ebert in training, pronounced: "And if you really had to win a fight, would you really bring along that old geezer from 'Star Wars?' He wouldn't last five minutes."

These boys are not snobs. They happily spent their parents' money going to see "Transformers" and "X Men" and "Thor." But when it came to "Cowboys & Aliens," the verdict was a big thumbs down. Amazingly, despite the presence of big-shot producers like Steven Spielberg, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, Hollywood has managed to make a summer movie that is too dumb even for a bunch of 13-year-old boys.




--Patrick Goldstein 

Photo: Harrison Ford, left, with Daniel Craig in a scene from the new film "Cowboys & Aliens."

Credit: Timothy White/Associated Press/Universal Pictures