A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST
Writer/Director: Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Liam Neeson
Seth MacFarlane is a multi-talented performer who can write, act, sing, direct, and do voice over work. We have seen him do all of that with hilarious results in his television show Family Guy. His first full length film Ted had some pretty funny moments as well. He is pulling quadruple duty in A Million Ways to Die in the West as he produces, directs, writes, and stars in an attempted spoof of the Western genre.
MacFarlane cast himself as the main character, Albert, a sheepherder who can barely wrangle his own sheep or fire a gun. After bowing out of a duel, his girlfriend Louise (Seyfried) decides to dump him and quickly moves as to the mustached Foy (Harris). Foy is far more upstanding as he runs his own “mustachery” store. Albert has his friends Edward (Ribisi) and his girlfriend Ruth (Silverman) nearby at the saloon for comfort and support.
It’s not too long before the beautiful Anna (Theron) rolls into town and wins over Albert’s affections. He teaches her about the town’s god-awful bad luck while she shows him how to shoot a gun and have a bit of courage in life. What Albert doesn’t know is that she is married to Clinch (Neeson), an outlaw gunslinger who you do not want at the other end of a duel. Albert’s strength and confidence is put to the test when Clinch arrives into town and finds Anna with Albert.
It’s hard to watch a western comedy and not think of the Mel Brooks classic Blazing Saddles, which is one of the funniest movies of all time. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t even attempt this type of movie, but there will always be comparisons. A Million Ways to Die in the West wishes it was as funny as that, but Seth MacFarlane does not even come remotely close to delivering the jokes that Brooks was able to unleash. We have all seen those movies where all of the funny parts were shown in the trailer. That pretty much applies here. I’m not saying that I didn’t laugh as I still let out a few chuckles at times, but it pales in comparison to other comedies of late. MacFarlane is known for pushing the envelope of politically incorrect humor that can be shocking at times. Sometimes he resorts to cheap, low brow poop and dick jokes. You get more of the latter in this movie. I typically like MacFarlane’s work as I have always been a Family Guy fan. I found Ted to pretty funny for the first half of the film, but it got old after a while. It’s disappointing that MacFarlane doesn’t seem to try any harder and I know he is capable of smarter and funnier material.
MacFarlane has himself a fun and talented cast many of whom are probably his friends in real life that signed on to this film as a favor. I don’t blame them as I guess I would sign on to work with MacFarlane without reading a script. Charlize Theron makes any movie better, and that applies here as well. We haven’t quite seen her do a comedy before, but I think I would rather see her and MacFarlane do a smart and mature romantic comedy over this that wastes both their talents. Family Guy actress Alex Borstein has a small role which should have been amplified as she is a hilarious character actress. Liam Neeson seems to be spoofing that same type of character he has played before which works for this movie. The only big casting beef I had happens to be MacFarlane. He seems oddly cast as he naturally carries with him this charm and good looking nature that didn’t quite fit the character. Both my husband and I thought it would have worked better if Giovanni Ribisi would have been in the MacFarlane role. He can pull off that loser type quality and be believable at it.
Of all of the comedic writers out that push the envelope, have an insightful commentary, and be cheap and crass, MacFarlane would be the one to rival Mel Brooks. It is really unfortunate that he seems to be playing it too safe and easy, which is not what I expect from him. He has written a very thin plot and I kept waiting for something to happen. He has mentioned in interviews that he wanted to write a western where the central character was the opposite of the gun-toting action hero. I see the appeal to that, but you have to have more to your concept that just a loose character description. One of the best parts of the movie happens to the cameos that pop up. I’m not about to spoil those here, but I will say they are an homage to the western genre.
Is it worth your trip to the movie? Absolutely not. I’m sure you can find Blazing Saddles or old episodes of Family Guy playing on some cable channel to watch instead.
RATING: 1.5 out of 5 Ticket Stubs