This Town Ain't Big Enough For All The Bad Jokes That Seth MacFarlane Has
A Million Ways To Die In The West is directed, produced by and stars Seth MacFarlane. The film also stars Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, and Liam Neeson.
I apologize that I couldn't come up with a better, more witty title for this review. I was hoping to go for something like How The West Was Undone, but that didn't sound right after staring at it for long enough.
In this day and age where comedy in film is pretty much dead and buried, it is next to near impossible to see a trailer for a brand new comedy movie and say to yourself, "That looks funny. I think I'm gonna go see it." But if there is anyone out there who is capable of at least creating the slightest glimmer of hope for a new comedy, that would be Mr. Seth MacFarlane. The creator of the ongoing adult animated TV series Family Guy and American Dad has proven that he is adept at finding humor in just about any topic imaginable, whether it's politics, the economy, or religion (and MacFarlane, an outspoken atheist, has been no holds barred when it comes to making fun of religion). So when MacFarlane's first feature film Ted turned out to be a pleasant success, there didn't seem to be any more reasons to doubt MacFarlane's talent.
Then came along A Million Ways To Die In The West, a western comedy that plays itself like it's a satire of western, as MacFarlane spends a good chunk of the movie talking about how much the West sucks. He complains that the likes of famine and disease are running rampant, and even something as mundane as going to the bathroom can kill you. Sure, there were a lot of things about the 19th century American West that sucked. But you know what else kinda sucks? A Million Ways To Die In The West. It's a lowbrow, aimless hunk of junk. I feel pretty bad admitting that I thought about seeing it when it was out in theaters, especially because a good friend of mine who went to see it at the time said that he left the theater in stitches. But my better judgement got the best of me, and I declined to wait until it came out on DVD and Blu-Ray. What a good decision that was.
Seth MacFarlane has his hands all over this film: directing, producing, screenwriting, and being the main character on top of it all. It's not hard to see just how damn proud he is of himself, with his ego shining through like a brand new light bulb while being completely oblivious to the fact that the jokes his movie provides heavily rely on poop, sex, and violent deaths that come out of nowhere. If you like to laugh at stuff that makes no sense and comes out of the blue, then this movie will be right up your alley.
To the plot. Seth MacFarlane is Albert Stark, a cowardly sheep farmer who is dating a woman named Louise (Amanda Seyfried). Louise breaks up with Albert, however, after he backs out of a gunfight. Saddened over getting dumped and believing that the Western frontier has nothing to offer him anymore, Albert prepares to leave to San Francisco. That's when Anna (Charlize Theron), the wife of dangerous outlaw Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), shows up. Anna runs away from her husband after he kills and robs an old man for a gold nugget. Albert and Anna first meet when Albert saves Anna from getting crushed to death during a bar fight, and the two instantly develop a connection. Albert finds out that Louise is now dating the 'stached, snobbish, rich boy Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), who challenges Albert to a shooting contest at the town's county fair. Albert loses the contest, but Anna steps in and defeats Foy herself. This leads to Foy challenging Albert to a duel in a week's time. Anna then spends the following week teaching Albert how to properly shoot a gun. While all of this is going on, Clinch is roaming nearby, looking for Anna.
- I'm really grasping at straws when it comes to thinking up a high point worthy enough of discussing. The best I could come up with is Charlize Theron. She delivers a solid performance as the sweetheart girl who goes from a bad, abusive relationship to a good, heartfelt one. She is probably the only character in the movie who isn't stupid, annoying, or lacking a purpose for being there at all. That's about all I got on that.
- I must reiterate that Seth MacFarlane is just so damn proud of himself with this movie, as if he thinks he has made the next Blazing Saddles, when, in reality, this movie couldn't hold a candle to Blazing Saddles. The low point is that MacFarlane is unable to sell himself as the sheepish (Get it? Because he's a coward and a sheep farmer? High five!) Albert Stark, because Seth MacFarlane is too busy being....Seth MacFarlane, and he just happens to be wearing a western outfit and pretending that he's stuck in 1882. Even when he's trying to have a serious or dramatic moment, MacFarlane's face always looks as if he's ready to crack a joke or make a snappy remark. This is none more indicative than when Albert addresses Louise after Foy soils himself several times. Albert gives Louise a heartfelt speech about how he realizes that their relationship never really worked and that he's moved on with someone who he knows truly cares about him. He then leaves her with a joke about living the rest of her life "with a pussy full of hair", only to come back and explain the joke to everyone, because, apparently, it's funnier that way.
- There are some awkward editing choices made throughout, such as Albert and Anna encountering a diamondback snake, only to then cut to early the next morning where the two appear totally fine. They must've showed that diamondback who's boss. More often than not, a scene will get its necessary exposition out of the way, and then proceed to cut to a joke that has little to no relation to what's going on, and then we cut to the next scene. One example is when Albert and his friend Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) notice Louise smooching with Foy, which understandably pisses off Albert (he hasn't met Anna yet). Edward then points out a massive ice block being brought into town. The block then falls onto a man and crushes him. Albert and Edward get grossed out, and then we cut to the next scene. Many scenes are constructed this way, and they fail to ever be funny.
So while the main mystery of this film is why does Seth MacFarlane think we will laugh at poop jokes, sex jokes, and random acts of violence, the other great mystery is why is Liam Neeson in this movie? This sort of raunchy, lowbrow comedy is way beneath his mighty talents, and he is only here to make the main antagonist seem more intimidating by solely relying on the intimidation factor that Liam Neeson magically brings to roles that require him to shoot a gun. Neeson has been in plenty of bad movies over the course of his career, but here, he is just totally out of place.
Easily the best part of the film is a very special cameo that I won't even think about spoiling. Aside from the cameo, A Million Ways To Die In The West offers few laughs and a story that mightily struggles with balancing itself. There's enough talent here for a great comedy, especially when the sheriff is proven comedian Seth MacFarlane. Unfortunately, a lot of the talent goes to waste on lazy jokes that aren't clever in any way. A Million Ways To Die In The West is a flimsy tumbleweed that blows aimlessly through the desert winds, with humor that hits its mark as well as Albert shooting a gun. Seth MacFarlane might think it's hilarious. Doesn't mean we think so too.
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