If my 10-year-old self were a Hollywood studio executive, he would have green-lit "Cowboys & Aliens" in a heartbeat.

If my 10-year-old self were a Hollywood studio executive, he would have green-lit "Cowboys & Aliens" in a heartbeat.

I mean, c'mon, it's a cowboy movie. With aliens!

So I'll admit a certain giddiness going into the movie and a certain disappointment coming out. It's not a complete misfire, but it's not nearly as good as it should have been.

Set in 1873 in Arizona, a grizzled stranger (Daniel Craig) awakens in the desert with no recollection of his past, his name or how a mysterious metal bracelet came to be attached to his wrist.

He makes his way to the nearby town of Absolution (great cowboy movie name, eh?), a would-be mining town that turned out to be light on the gold.

Cattleman Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) is the big shot in town. When his privileged son Percy (Paul Dano) starts trouble with the local bartender (Sam Rockwell), the stranger steps in.

Soon the stranger finds himself in trouble with the law and garnering the attention of the mysterious Ella (Olivia Wilde). Then the aliens attack

So we have a throwback Western with a great director (Jon Favreau), top-notch stars (James Bond and Indiana Jones!) and a ripe sci-fi twist. How could this possibly not be fun?

For a while, it is. The gritty opening act holds a lot of promise, darker and moodier than the popcorn premise would suggest. I was enjoying it even before the alien ships started swooping in.

Craig does his strong, silent cowboy in the Clint Eastwood vein. Ford as a (kind-of) bad guy plays nicely against type. And Dano ("There Will Be Blood") steals early scenes as the spoiled, drunk rich kid.

But as the characters we're supposed to care about start to pile up, things get bogged down. When the titular extraterrestrials make their appearance, there are thrills and great effects, but it all feels a bit hollow.

I just sat there wondering why I wasn't having more fun.

The first sign of trouble should have been that there are seven credited writers. That's usually a telltale sign that you'll be getting a "too many cooks" script that's been combed over and punched up so much it loses its life.

It's not an altogether bad popcorn flick, but "Cowboys" will probably go down as my biggest disappointment of the summer. My 10-year-old studio exec is heartbroken.