Review: A Million Ways to Die in the West

Review of: A Million Ways to Die in the West
A Million Ways to Die in the West

Reviewed by:
On May 29, 2014
Last modified:May 29, 2014


Funny for the most part, but still has some flaws from keeping the movie from completely working.

I didn’t have high hopes for A Million Ways to Die in the West. It seemed like every funny joke was in the trailer and it was trying very hard to be Blazing Saddles. Well what do you know; I laughed my ass off for most of the movie.

As with every comedy, your enjoyment depends greatly on what you consider funny. Do you like Family Guy and thought Ted was very funny? Well then you’re going to love this movie.  Do you not like Family Guy? Then you may want to hit AMC theaters before noon ($6.50 a ticket around me) or rent it.  I’m not a fan of MacFarlane’s Family Guy style of humor, where random things pop in that are inconsequential to the story and it’s suppose to be funny.  A Million Ways is weakest when MacFarlane goes for these types of gags.  The audience is pulled right out of the western motif as the humor falls flat.  MacFarlane also goes for gags that last a few minutes too long, and those are also supposed to be “funny.”  He also can’t seem to stop pointing out the oddities around them and why it’s stupid that people are happy to live in the west.  It really takes the audience out of the scene.  Thankfully for us, this brand of humor is gone when the movie’s plot really kicks into high gear.  Here, we have humor that is built off a set up/pay off type of equation instead of random things happening.  Those rear their ugly head occasionally but never for long and attempt to be connected to something happening around the characters.  This gave me a good chuckle instead of sitting there silent.  Leaving the theater, I remembered myself laughing more times than not.

MacFarlane seemed to try and make the Blazing Saddles of this generation, but didn’t know how to effectively with his brand of humor. Of course there are racial jokes, but unlike Blazing Saddles, where the bad people (for the most part) were racist, even our heroes are racists here. Only one of the racial jokes actually hits and the rest end up falling flat.  Granted that one racial joke pays off for a great cameo.

The plot is rather thin, but doesn’t exactly need to be for this type of movie. Boy loses girl, boy meets new girl who has secrets, new girl shows boy the way of being a normal person, and finally a conflict.  The lack of plot gives the movie more time to focus on the actors and their chemistry, which ends up being the backbone of the movie.  There are some pacing issues near the end of the movie, when MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, and Wellesley Wild (the screenwriters) seem to realize the plot has been on hold for 45 minutes because they were having so much fun with the characters.  This leads to the plot sprinting along, then slowing down, and then sprinting along again.  Ruth (Sarah Silverman) and Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) are all but forgotten once the second act starts, even though they weren’t that funny.

The big surprise for me was the music. I found the soundtrack invoking memories of past westerns (which clearly was the idea).  The breakout song will no doubt be “If You Only Had a Moustache,” which I’ve had stuck in my head for days.  I normally shy away from soundtracks but have already bought this one.

MacFarlane is clearly still learning the ropes as a director of live action. There are some unnecessary crane camera shots that feel oddly placed and are there to only look pretty.  He’s still very accustomed to characters just standing around and talking, as these scenes look the best throughout.  Once the action heats up, hell even dancing heats up, it can be difficult to figure out where everyone is in relation to each other or the size of the area around them.  I found myself a little confused as to how far they had actually danced when singing “If You Only Had a Moustache.”

Whoever decided to include the Back to the Future reference in the trailer deserves to be fired. After seeing the movie, it could have been up there with Bill Murray in Zombieland for all time funniest cameos. But instead we can see it coming from a mile away.  Even leading up to the scene I could tell the gag was on its way.  Still a funny scene, but could have been a hysterical scene.  There are few other cameos that elicit laugher, but nowhere near what that could have been.

The acting is quite good as you’d expect with an A-list cast like this. MacFarlane plays the character he always plays: the everyman pointing out the absurdities around him.  I don’t see anything to make me seem as anything more than a funny man, but at least he’s good at what he does.  MacFarlane and Charlize Theron (Anna) have a lot of chemistry in both humor and romantic scenes.   Theron doesn’t have a lot of room to stretch her acting chops here, but at least has the comedic timing down to match wits with MacFarlane.  Neil Patrick Harris steals the show as Foy, the evil moustache wearing man who steals Albert’s girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried).  He plays an evil bastard perfectly while showing off his comedic timing skills along with his dancing capabilities.  Amanda Seyfried is good, but isn’t given a lot to do.  Liam Neeson continues to be a badass in everything he is cast. But like Seyfried, he doesn’t have a lot to throughout the movie.  He appears at the begging of the film then disappears until the end.  His acting abilities don’t really mesh well with the humor of MacFarlane.

When deciding on a number, I was quite torn. I laughed quite a bit through the movie, but couldn’t help but notice the flaws that kept popping up. I originally thought to myself a 4/5, but as I wrote the review and thought about the movie more and more, I decided on 3.5/5.

A Million Ways to Die in the West gets 3.5/5.


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