There are those movies out there that cross lines for certain reasons. Tarantino crosses the blood line in an effort to recapture gore of days past, Bay enjoys recapturing the first few instances of the universe in most of his movies. With A Million Ways to Die in the West Seth MacFarlane seems to want to recapture the elements that make children laugh at farts, people falling over, and poo. Lots of poo… And to be honest, I really enjoyed it. Grow up Nick.
I loved 2012’s rather preposterous Ted, a movie that has a bear come to life and swear/hump his way into our hearts, so I was keen to see what director, writer and actor Seth MacFarlane had in store for us with his latest, A Million Ways to Die in the West. As the name suggests the movie is set in the west, the Wild West to be precise, and I can only assume that the success of Ted is the reason such high-calibre actors and actresses like Liam Neeson and Charlize Theron decided to saddle up.*
The story is a very simple one: Loser guy who is useless in all areas of life loses his girlfriend Louise, played by a completely underutilised Amanda Seyfried, to Foy (played by a moustache attached to Neil Patrick Harris) and, with the help of Anna (Charlize Theron) intends to woo her back. Naturally Anna starts falling for said loser (have I said that?) and one thing leads to the other, blah blah blah. Of course to make things a bit more complicated Anna happens to be married to the fastest gun-slinger in the west, notorious bandit Clinch Leatherwood (Neeson).
Funnily enough as a western romance the movie does good. As clichéd as it may be, the scenes with Anna and Albert are rather touching and at times hysterical. One scene has them mumbling through their pursed lips as snake slithers past their feet, and seeing Theron mutter F**********K had the audience gasping. And this is where the movie worked.
I won’t spoil any of the surprises but there are a lot of cameos in Million Ways to Die and Macfarlane capitalises on them acting in a manner we are not used to. Neil Patrick Harris has a very funny role as a salesman of moustaches and is even afforded an ear-worming singsong moment about how real men must have one (the lead characters even curse how the catchy ditty gets stuck in their heads). Sarah Silverman plays a foul mouthed and very much proud to be town whore who is engaged to Giovanni Ribisi, the town virgin. They happen to be very Christian though and so cannot have sex till their marriage day. Yes, rather lame but it works. To a point.
Many things in A Million Ways could have actually been a lot better but Macfarlane seems to revel in ‘jumping the shark’, an idiom used to describe a point where going full retard is the only way to keep the audience’s attention. If keeping your attention is what MacFarlane intended he certainly gets it through visuals, just a pity it isn’t through clever writing.
A Million Ways to Die in the West suffers from some very shoddy and lazy writing. I can only imagine that writers MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild must have been stoned when they penned down the script, jokes included. For example, the opening has Albert facing off to someone he owes money. He manages to avoid the draw by promising to give the money back, even though he evidently has none. This is later skipped over with a ‘I paid him back’… HOW? Also, the voiceover at the beginning is completely unnecessary and is not returned to at the end. As for the jokes many have the potential to be very funny but they are drawn out for so long they become a ‘okay, enough already’. I don’t mind the occasional banal fart joke but when 80% of the movie is made up of them it gets tedious. I mean come on! There’s even a scene where Neeson has a flower planted in his A-Hole!
However, there are some absolute gems, probably written when the writers were less stoned. I think my favourite has to do with ‘People die at the fair’. You’ll see what I mean.
As I said to Master and Overlord Kervyn, this movie reminded me of a cross between Anchorman 2 and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, with more poo. Fart jokes aside, the movie also delves into the very non-PC world. One scene even has some Native Americans speaking in their tongue saying ‘If the white man can speak our language they must be our friends’ which got a very loud ‘Ohhhhhh’ from the reviewers present. And it was very much like that watching this entire movie.
From one corner of the cinema you would hear riotous laughter at what I would deem to be a lame joke (I think one was ‘let’s get f****d’ and then while I would be laughing at what was, of course, a GOOD joke, the same crowd would be quieter than a creationist at a Neil deGrasse Tyson seminar. So my advice is this: If you can handle slapstick humour like ‘look, he’s drunk on a horse!’ or ‘he’s crapping into a hat for 5 minutes!’ then go along. Just be warned now that the line between toilet humour and very non-politically correct is crossed so many times you’ll come out with aching ‘cringe’ muscles.
*Liam Neeson is said to have only agreed to play the part of the big bad if he was allowed to use a heavy Irish accent…
Last Updated: May 29, 2014