The Movie Waffler New Release Review - <i>A Million Ways to Die in the West</i> | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - A Million Ways to Die in the West

A sheep farmer in the old West attempts to win back his love.

Directed by: Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Wes Studi

In 1882 Arizona, sheep farmer Albert (MacFarlane) has just lost his girlfriend, Louise (Seyfried), after embarrassing himself in front of the town by pulling out of a gunfight. She's hooked up instead with Foy (Harris), the successful local barber and proud owner of the most impressive moustache in town. When Anna (Theron), the wife of feared outlaw Clinch (Neeson), comes to town to hide out for 12 days, she befriends Albert and sets about transforming him into the type of man Louise will accept. In the process, however, Albert and Anna begin to fall for each other, but soon Clinch will be coming to claim his wife.
What is it about the old West that makes it such a popular setting for comedies? Throughout the history of American cinema we've seen the Wild West mined for laughs, with varying degrees of success in films like Son of Paleface, Blazing Saddles and the closing chapter of the Back to the Future trilogy, the latter referenced in a brief scene here.
MacFarlane's followup to his big screen hit Ted gets the setting down pat, thanks to its location shoot in New Mexico and handsome cinematography by Michael Barrett. Ultimately though, thanks to its misfiring script, there are more tumbleweeds to be found in the movie theatre than onscreen.
With TV's Family Guy, MacFarlane found a medium for his particular brand of abrasive humour. The show's modern setting allowed him plenty of leeway to attack his personal bugbears of religion and right wing politics, remarkable given the show aired on the Fox network. He managed to translate some of this into his big screen outing of 2012, Ted, a surprise hit that afforded him the opportunity for this self indulgent mess.
The period setting cramps MacFarlane's style, preventing him from commenting on contemporary American society so explicitly. While he could have used the Western setting in allegorical fashion, as did so many of Hollywood's great Western directors, MacFarlane instead serves up a smorgasboard of painfully unfunny and too often overplayed gags involving every bodily function imaginable.
When Theron refers to his character as a "hero", MacFarlane replies, "I'm the guy in the crowd making fun of the hero's shirt". It's the one witty line in the entire film and the only glimpse of the observational humour we expect from MacFarlane. Otherwise, this is the sort of comedy even Adam Sandler would be embarrassed to put his name to.

Eric Hillis