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A Million Ways to Die in the West: Not One Being Laughter
I was ready. I was so ready. I had my popcorn, prime seating and the perfect company (because you have to have just the right person to laugh with). The landscape started rolling in front of my eyes, western credits flashing and the perfect score to set the scene. I already started giggling with expectations. Unfortunately, the laughter only ever amounted to giggles. A Million Ways to Die in the West has an exceptionally clever premise, regrettably, the execution is sub-par.
Let’s set the scene. It is 1882, and Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) is one of the two participants in an infamous old west shootout. However, Albert does not prove to be one of the badass cowboys of the time. In fact, he would rather talk it out than shoot it out. As a result of his lack of bravery, his gold digger girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfried) breaks up with him. In order to escape his lousy life, Albert is set on moving to San Francisco until the beautiful Anna (Charlize Theron) comes to town. She helps Albert find courage and confidence. What Albert doesn’t know is that she is the wife of the deadly outlaw, Clinch (Liam Neeson). Sounds like a good story, right? Well, it is, but sprinkle numerous poorly written jokes throughout, and the entertainment becomes lost.
Up until this point, Cosmos has been the only entertainment I have ever taken in that is associated with Seth MacFarlane. I have only seen the first few seconds of Family Guy while I desperately search for the remote to change the channel. And Ted? I refuse to see Ted. Cartoons that appeal to adults are something I’ve never understood. So why was I so excited for A Million Ways to Die in the West? Simply put, because the trailer made it look genuinely hilarious. Props to whoever made the trailer because I belly laughed at jokes in the trailer that made little impact on me in the actual film.
With all that aside, I still seem to like Seth MacFarlane quite a bit. He’s a smart guy, believe it or not, whose humor can be intelligent when he’s not making sex and fart jokes… The entire premise of the film is intelligently based. The old west was a seriously crappy place to live. At one point, Albert goes on a rant about all the ways one can die out in the frontier: rattle snake bites, cholera, major wounds, minor wounds, the doctor… It ends with a man dying from his own breaking of wind that was lethal due to an extremely poor diet. Although the film is overall exceptionally ridiculous, (bear with me on this next statement), I did feel educated at some points. Many of the ways to die that Albert talks about were actually all too common. At the fair, a vendor offers Albert and Anna a concoction made of many ingredients we now know to be lethal. The pair even discusses Anna’s fashion at one point. Through crude humor, MacFarlane finds a way to subtly offer education about the Wild West.
However, this is as far as subtlety goes in this film. Comic moments are ruined by over-the-top images. Louise’s new boyfriend, Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), spends an exorbitant amount of time in one scene, crapping into a man’s hat. As if that wasn’t disgusting enough on its own, we are then forced to watch the hat tip over: completely unnecessary. Of course, the movie is called A Million Ways to Die in the West, thus, we see several graphic deaths. However, the most ridiculous part of the film comes toward the end. I think the script must have been too short and this was just stuck in to add time, because it is completely outrageous and unnecessary. All I will say is that it is animated and horrifying in Seth MacFarlane fashion.
Although the film is outlandish, it does have its moments. My favorite part involves photographs. Photography was new in the late 1800s, thus the technology was undeveloped. It took many minutes to take a photo, so people generally did not smile for them. This becomes a running joke throughout the film. Another amusing moment comes when Albert’s town holds a community dance. The jerk, Foy leads a musical number all about having a moustache. The funniest part about this is the fact that the song is an actual Stephen Foster song (although MacFarlane changes most of the lyrics for the film). Also as a treat, A Million Ways has three cameos from three distinguished actors. Keep an eye out!
As far as production value goes, it all seems quite standard. The only facet worth mentioning is the score. Shout out to Joel McNeely who excellently blended the music of old westerns with the perfect comedic undertones. As with the production value, the same can be said for the acting. However, Seth MacFarlane stood out to me simply because I do not think of him as an actor. I know he voices many characters, but seeing him on screen is new, and I have to say he does an amazing job. In a film of irreverent humor, MacFarlane finds a way to make Albert endearing.
A Million Ways to Die in the West is a bizarre film, but nothing I would not expect from Seth MacFarlane. When one goes to a movie made by the same guy who made a film about an animated teddy bear who likes to smoke weed, one cannot have high expectations (no pun intended). It is not the perfect comedy, but for an hour and fifty-five minutes it is entertaining. However, I can’t say I’ll be rushing to redbox when it comes out on bluray. If you like uncouth humor, then you should race to the theater, but be prepared. There may be A Million Ways to Die in the West, but dying from laughter is not one of them.
Opened in the US: May 30, 2014
Run Time 1:55
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A Million Ways to Die in the West IMDB
- A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014) - IMDb
Directed by Seth MacFarlane. With Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried. As a cowardly farmer begins to fall for the mysterious new woman in town, he must put his new-found courage to the test when her husband, a notorious gu