10 Things to Know about..A Million Ways to Die in the West

Photo Credit: Photo by Lorey Sebastian - © 2014 - Universal Pictures

Short review:

“Ted”, yes the movie about the talking stuffed teddy bear, was probably the most gut-bustingly funny movie I’ve seen in the past decade, signaling that “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane’s real future would be as one of the few fantastic comedy filmmakers working today. “A Million Ways to die in the West” is a bit of a sophomore slump, a reminder that even a good comedian will try anything to see if it sticks, even if it’s not all that strong. While that may sound disappointing, I’m still encouraged by the film itself. Even though there are moments where MacFarlane turns to flat-out desperation and laziness, his writing and performance style still has just enough sharp, biting humor to make it enjoyable.

10 to Know:

10. Again MacFarlane offers a pot luck of jokes, which he breezes through like a seasoned comedian. Whether it’s making fun of everything that’s wrong with the west (what our beauty queens looked like 1882, all the things that could kill us, how uninformed people are), nationalities (black, Asian, Native Americans), or just throwing in some pop culture references, the fun in watching him work is that along with your standard crudity that you see in most film comedies, he also has a very witty brain that hits a gag as much as it misses one. I’m always interested in what he says next. +1

9. As an actor he isn’t great but he’s probably the best person to handle his own material. He plays Albert Stark, a cowardly sheep herder whose rationale makes him a black sheep in the dangerous, ‘anything can kill you, and usually does” old west and loses him his wife Louise (Amanda Seyfried), who goes in search of a real man after Albert refuses a gunfight. MacFarlane makes Albert a smart-ass and reluctant cowboy but he also knows how to transfer that wit over to being charming when it comes to scenes with Charlize Theron. +1

8. Theron plays Anna, a very good sharpshooter that Albert saves during a barroom fistfight. In return she helps him make Louise jealous as well as trains him when he finds himself roped into another gunfight. MacFarlane is one of the last actors you would expect to believably romance Theron but the two communicate sweetly, funnily, and sincerely enough that it works just fine. +1

7. Liam Neeson has a few scenes as Clinch, called so because he’s the most notorious sharpshooter in the west. He also happens to be Anna’s husband and the lead antagonist for Stark come the film’s second half. Neeson just needs to be intimidating, which he can do just by breathing. +1

6. The film looks like it was modeled after “Blazing Saddles”. It’s not in the same ballpark, not even close, but it does have its moments of reveling in its Western setting. The musical score is a highlight, as is a ho-down sequence that features an amusing song about the mustache. +1

5. The movie is wayyyyy to long. There’s a million ways to die in the west and come the hour and a half mark, it feels like MacFarlane is trying to detail every one of them. -1

4. The ending is anti-climactic and not just because MacFarlane isn’t making a Western based on the suspense of its gunfights. We’re stuck watching as it tries to tie up the loose ends of a story that never held much interest in the first place. -1

3. It’s also around this point that MacFarlane falls way back on his most desperate and awful comedic arsenal. A scene where a character overcome with diarrhea has to defecate into a hat is bad enough but then there’s another scene where a sheep pees in Albert’s face. This is the kind of stuff you use only if you’ve got nothing else and even then, you should never use this stuff. -1

2. Secondary characters like Ed (Giovanni Ribisi), a virginal man who agrees to his fiancée’s wishes of waiting for marriage to have sex (even though the fiancée is a whore, played by Sarah Silverman, who participates in kinky things all day long), and a pompous mustache-grooming salesman (Neil Patrick Harris) don’t offer much and basically come across like half-formed cartoons. -1

1. What “Million Ways” comes down to is MacFarlane’s ability to sell a joke though, something that for the most part he does rather well. It’s too long and goes to some pretty unnecessary places but that scattershot attitude still serves him better than most comedies you see today. +1

Final Score- 6/10