Title: A Million Ways To Die In The West
How Many Ways To Die In The West Do We See? A few dozen. Bit of a ripoff, really.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two Men With No Name out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Well-meaning sheep farmer runs afoul of ruthless gunfighter. Also, Neil Patrick Harris shits in a hat.
Tagline: "Bring protection."
Better Tagline: "They haven't remade Blazing Saddles for a reason."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Farmer Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) isn't a fan of frontier living, which presents a problem when you're living in Arizona in 1882. To make matters worse, his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfriend) has left him for moustache impresario Foy (Nel Patrick Harris). The arrival in town of the mysterious Anna (Charlize Theron) perks him up a bit, that is until he discovers she's actually the wife of Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson) the most ruthless killer in the territory.
"Critical" Analysis: Your list of "great Western comedies" starts with Blazing Saddles and drops precipitously after that (Goin' South? Three Amigos?). Seth MacFarlane desperately wants A Million Ways to Die in the West to be held in the same regard as Mel Brooks' classic Western farce, and this desire is evident in everything from AMWTDITW's aspiring musical score to the "western style" typeface for the credits to the requisite Monument Valley shots.
Unfortunately, as with just about everything else in the movie, these homages fail to meet the challenge. The score was composed by Joel McNeely, "best" known for scoring direct-to-video Disney sequels like Mulan II and Cinderella III: A Twist in Time, while the breathtaking rock formations sort of lose their grandeur when used as background in every shot.
And, needless to say, A Million Ways to Die in the West just isn't funny enough.
It has its moments, mostly when MacFarlane goes overboard in search of a laugh. For example, referring to Parkinson's disease as "one of the inexplicable ways God shows us he loves us," or the "Runaway Slave" shooting gallery at the local fair. What he apparently failed to realize was that pushing the envelope was just one of the ways Brooks made his film succeed. He also never let up on the farce gas pedal, and made sure to keep things humorous throughout.
MacFarlane briefly lapsed into seriousness in Ted, but here there are long, arid stretches where he tries to expand the romance between Albert and Anna, and everything grinds to a halt. MacFarlane is suitably earnest, but an underutilized Theron is forced to make comments about how awesome her breasts are.
Which is true, but that's not the point.
I get it; MacFarlane does not have a romanticized view of the Old West. This hardly makes him unique (hell, my wife hates Westerns too). But anachronistic jokes aside, Albert and Anna's complete failure to abide by genre tropes makes for a jarring experience, especially when everyone else is (mostly) acting like they're in a Western.
I will say this: the quality of cameos in a MacFarlane movie has definitely gone up since Sam Flash Gordon Jones appeared in Ted. I won't spoil any of them here, but for the most part they felt forced, and added almost nothing to the proceedings.
But everything else -- from the running joke of prostitute Ruth (Sarah Silverman) saving herself for marriage to Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) in spite of giving up anal to randy cowboys to Albert's constant litany of reasons the frontier sucks -- runs into the ground after 15 minutes. And a surprising (or maybe not, I haven't watched Family Guy in years) number of gags are just ... cheap: a lamb pisses in Albert's face; the whole "Albert slips Foy a laxative" thing.
I'm also not sure what to make of the fact Ribisi, who also played a role in Ted, is turning into the Rob Scheider to MacFarlane's Adam Sandler.
A Million Ways to Die in the West is in theaters today. Pity they didn't include boredom on the list.
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