Directed by Seth MacFarlane
Written by Seth MacFarlane
Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman, Wes Studi
A Million Ways to Die in the West will not only go down as one of the biggest missteps of this summer, but probably one of the worst comedic film blunders ever. You know, the type of comedy that studios pump money into, giving a director/writer/star free reign to do as they please. They spare no expense to get an all-star cast, who will forever be embarrassed by their appearance in said film later on. They might as well have just named A Million Ways to Die in the West Seth MacFarlane’s Ishtar.
I don’t think America was clamoring for a make-up caked, 40-year-old, Seth MacFarlane to star in a high school-level romantic plot, but that’s what A Million Ways to Die in the West gives us, with a plethora of sh*t and dick jokes that’ll only amuse the most immature of adolescent boys delivered along the way.
MacFarlane stars as a down and out sheep rancher, Albert, alongside a cast of Hollywood actors that his television series’ regularly lampoon. He has just backed down from a duel, humiliating himself in front of the whole town and leading his girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfried), to unceremoniously dump him.
That’s the last straw for Albert, who absolutely abhors living in the old west; so much so that he regularly indulges in long diatribes to his best friend, Edward (Giovanni Ribisi), and Edward’s prostitute girlfriend Ruth (Sarah Silverman), about how much life sucks in the 19th century. A Million Ways to Die in the West seems to build on this premise at first – the tongue-in-cheek commentary on frontier life assumed from a contemporary perspective through MacFarlane and Theron’s characters. It all ultimately amounts to nothing amidst a rushed, cliché-ridden romantic plot and predicable toilet humor.
Soon comes along Anna (Charlize Theron), who quickly befriends Albert, and they two forge a relationship making fun of Albert’s ex-girlfriend and her asshole new boyfriend, Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). It turns out Anna is the wife of bad guy, Clinch (Liam Neeson) – the deadliest shot in the territory. Upon finding out of his wife’s extra marital goings-on with Albert, Clinch storms into town to take bloody vengeance.
Despite portraying the film’s main antagonist, Neeson seems suspiciously absent from A Million Ways to Die in the West. His shooting days seem limited, and thus much of the actual bad guy leg work is done by generic gang member types. Needless to say, Neeson comes off as a very impotent villain.
Unlike many western comedies, A Million Ways to Die in the West derives most of its gags, not from prodding the conventions of the western genres, but from MacFarlane and co.’s tongue-in-cheek contemporary perspective on antiquated 19th century technology/fashion/societal trends. This is an approach unique to A Million Ways to Die in the West, yet isn’t enough to sustain the two hour laugh riot that Seth MacFarlane wants it to be.
The rest of the film strains to tickle any possible chortle from the audience with predictable toilet humor, and very bizarre scenes in which MacFarlane witnesses and reacts to people dying in violent and outlandish ways. I don’t really know what MacFarlane and his writers intended with these scenes. They don’t come off as disturbing or insensitive or anything, just senseless and—worse—unfunny.
You can tell MacFarlane had big plans for A Million Ways to Die in the West, suggested alone its ridiculous title. Maybe he wanted something on par with the sweeping satire of Blazing Saddles or the all-out comedic knock-down drag-out of something like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. But, somewhere along the way – in script rewrites, or pressure from studios, or juggling actors’ egos, or getting his face caked in makeup before the first shoot, or in the editing bay sitting next to an unfunny executive – A Million Ways to Die in the West lost its way.
MacFarlane finds it difficult to rustle up laughs, with the direction of A Million Ways to Die in the West going in a million different ways, and no one involved with the making of this mess ever decided exactly what they wanted to DO with this film.