Director: Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman
Written by: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild
Running Time: 116 mins
Release date: 30th May 2014
I went into A Million Ways To Die In The West with high expectations. The follow-up movie for Seth MacFarlane after Ted, one of the funniest comedies of the past five years. Alas, I should learn the lesson of never going into a film with high expectations as you are always disappointed. In fact, this could be the biggest disappointment of the year because what could have been a laugh-a-minute triumph, is nothing more than a wasted opportunity.
Albert is a lousy sheep farmer who lives in a town where all the locals want to do is kill you. Gunfights and fist fights happen on a regular occurrence. Albert is mourning the break-up of his relationship to Louise, when Anna rides into town and a friendship develops. What Albert doesn’t know is that Anna is the wife of the notorious killer Clinch Leatherwood and as the pair grow closer, so are the chances of him dying.
The film starts with so much promise. A sweeping shot of a traditional western setting with bold title captions and an even bolder western inspired opening score, you get the sense that MacFarlane loves the western and everything associated with it. However, after a few minutes in, you know that this is playing for the lowest common denominator, as the first of many, MANY fart jokes appears and falls flat on its face.
One of the triumphs of Ted was that, yes it was crude and vulgar but it had heart and a cute, computerised teddy bear being crude and vulgar and somehow it worked. Here we have no such thing, only humans and you wonder if the cast hadn’t just wandered onto the set of the wrong Seth and found Rogan instead.
I shouldn’t be so downtrodden on it. When it works, it works really well and those occasions are when MacFarlane and his writing team are being smart, and satirical and poking fun out of the west, or when Albert and Anna are alone together and you get a nice, naturalistic and relaxed banter or even the odd pop culture reference that somehow doesn’t feel out-of-place (one such gag involves an iconic 80’s movies).
There’s even a funny song about mustaches but these are so few that they only take up a third of the film. The rest is made up of cheap laughs that actually don’t work and become tiresome pretty quickly. So gags about bodily functions and sex, while in the right setting and right context can be funny, just end up being infantile and somewhat lazy.
Why am I being so harsh? I am sure there will be people out there who loved Bad Neighbours, will probably love this. The reason is I know Seth MacFarlane is better than this. He’s the mastermind behind Family Guy and when it’s on form, it’s the funniest thing on TV. I also know that there are enough ideas here that could be hilarious and this could have been the 21st Century answer to Blazing Saddles, a western spoof with the ultimate fart joke.
The cast do their best with the material. Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman have some nice scenes as a sweet couple on the verge of marriage, even though she is a popular prostitute who refuse to sleep with him on religious grounds and yet goes into great details about her clients.
Liam Neeson is perfectly gruff as the brilliantly named Clinch Leatherwood while Neil Patrick Harris almost steals the film as an oily mustache shop owner and as mentioned, the scenes between MacFarlane’s Albert and Charlize Theron’s Anna are a delight yet they are few and far between. There are loads of cameo appearances from a host of stars but you will struggle to find them as they are on-screen for such a short while, it almost seems pointless.
Which is a feeling I had leaving the film that it has so many good and solid ideas yet they aren’t seen through so in the end, the whole exercise seems rather pointless. A Million Ways To Die In The West is a massively missed opportunity and I just hope that next year’s slated Ted 2 sees a return to form from a man who can be outstanding. Here he is somewhat tedious.