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Movie review: 'Cowboys & Aliens,' 3 stars

Cowboys & Aliens

Cowboys & Aliens

Cowboys & Aliens
3 stars
Directed by Jon Favreau
Starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano
Rated PG-13

If the title “Cowboys & Aliens” strikes you as some kind of joke, you’re not alone.

This comic-book movie is co-written by Steve Oedekerk (“Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls”) and directed by Jon Favreau, who handled “Elf” before “Iron Man.” Early trailers reportedly baffled audiences, who wondered if they were supposed to be taking it seriously.

That’s right, pilgrims: “Cowboys & Aliens” succeeds precisely because it fuses the preposterous with the authentic. Even as giant spaceships shoot blue lasers, you can feel the dust and grit of 1875 New Mexico. It’s a rip-roaring blast, a whole-hog hybrid that thrillingly immerses you in two vivid worlds at once.

The action starts as Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the chaparral wearing an iron bracelet but missing his memory.

After wandering into nearby Absolution, Jake learns he’s wanted for murder. Perhaps worse, he also stole a pile of gold from the ruthless cattleman Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford, returning to rugged form after a string of soft roles).

Jaws are clenched for a showdown until, in the first of several tremendous action sequences, alien warships begin ripping through clapboard and snatching townfolk. (Jake’s manacle helpfully lights up — it’s a weapon!)

Now facing bigger enemies, Jake and Dolarhyde go alien-hunting together through the Wild West. Tagging along is a mysterious beauty, Ella (Olivia Wilde).

Tightly paced and filled with fun details (people aren’t beamed up but lassoed), “Cowboys & Aliens” fully embraces every cliché.

We’ll meet the preacher-doctor (Clancy Brown) and the loyal Apache (Adam Beach) just as surely as we’ll be staring into a gargling alien’s guts.

Ridiculous, you say? Most assuredly. But when it comes to pure entertainment, this movie isn’t kidding around.

Rafer Guzmán is a Newsday staff writer.

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