The days of the Wild West movie have become scarce, with only the occasional director up to the task of returning to the rugged frontier. It seems that chasing bandits, riding horses across the plains, and surviving Native American attacks are no longer popular, replaced by a sea of romantic comedies and big budget book remakes. My second review this weekend goes back to the world of the 1800’s, though not in the way nostalgic fans like my grandpa expect. Yes I’m talking about Seth MacFarlane’s latest creation A Million Ways To Die in The West, and boy is it an… interesting project.
For those who haven’t seen the trailers, this tale is about a coward named Albert (MacFarlane) who hates the desolate cesspool the West is at the time. After breaking up with his girl (Amanda Seyfried) and describing plenty of ways to die out in the desert, Albert plans on moving out of the town, only to be pulled in by the newcomer Anna (Charlize Theron). Interested once more, Albert soon finds himself in a gun standoff where his chances of winning are nil, and must be guided by Anna’s tutelage to secure victory. What hilarious antics will ensue?
In MacFarlane’s world, there are no limits, which we saw with Ted, and this movie is no exception. From the very start, MacFarlane acts like a fool, stumbling around, both physically and in his words, trying to get a laugh. His material is very similar to his cartoons, filled with offensive references, racist jokes, and curse-laden sexual innuendos you haven’t heard a million times already. What started out funny soon became stale, for MacFarlane takes a dead horse and mercilessly beats it into oblivion. MacFarlane has a variety of comedy styles blended in this movie, but often he takes a joke too far as he grinds into your face without relent. For me in particular, the sexual stuff was the material that failed the most, often presented in some fashion that was a bit over the line, i.e. semen on the face, or a full front view of a sheep’s penis. Once again the lack of restraint in R rated movies allows his writing to get lazy, no longer clever, or witty as his TV shows are filled with. Yet some of his talent still remains amidst the cheap laughs, often executed in just the right spots for maximum laughter.
However, the best part of the movie for me is Theron. Her character Anna is a center point for this shell of the story there is, and the most balanced of the cast. Anna has morals, a conscience to balance the darker secrets she holds, as she teaches Albert the ropes of life. Surprisingly MacFarlane and company wrote some touching dialog, and integrated a few life values that served as good lesson and helped develop her character. Yet the blonde beauty is also funny, delivering well-timed jokes without overacting or over emphasizing the lines, plus the girl has got skills in stage shooting. Theron does all of this so naturally, and was a fantastic pick for this well designed character. The combination of great acting and a great character is why I loved her so much, plus her gorgeous looks didn’t hurt.
What about the rest of the cast? Seyfried is okay, her character merely a ploy to drive Albert’s actions as the remnants of her Mean Girls’ days shows itself. Liam Neeson brings his Taken voice to the game, using the steely stare to deliver some imposing threats to help get the village shaking, though he is not in as much of the movie as you might think. Giovanni Ribisi is still awkward as ever, playing the innocent virgin whose naivety and child like manner provide some interesting comedic moments. His lines have a little more creativity behind them, but they were not too impressive for me, and would have been worse had Sarah Silverman not been partnered with him. Finally the legendary Neil Patrick Harris wraps up the cast. Fans of Barney will love his character, the cocky ambience radiating from Foy and his prop mustache. NPH had me laughing most of the time as he brought all his talent, including singing and dancing, to the Wild West, adding spunk and pizazz to a rather bland world. He plays the rival so well, and thankfully, wasn’t forced to spout out sexual innuendos or curse like a sailor. The writers allowed him to be his self, and it fit so well into McFarland’s world.
There isn’t much more I can say about this movie. It’s a western comedy from one of the dirtiest minds in Hollywood. The movie is filled to the brim with stupidity, making this film one for just a stress reliever or an outing with your friends. If you are a die-hard fan of MacFarlane I recommend you see this movie, but otherwise save your cash for future movies and rent this on RedBox.
My scores for the film are: