A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014): From the Guy Who Brought You Ted

Posted: May 30, 2014 in Comedy, Western
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a-million-ways-to-die-in-the-west-posters-generalIn the Old West, anything and everything can kill you. For Albert, his biggest concern is his relationship with Louise and making sure she is completely happy. Instead, he is surprised to find that she no longer wants to stay together, even after he senses her disappointment with his failure to compete in a gun battle. Depressed and frustrated with her moving on with Foy, the mustache purveyor, he struggles to find himself and considers moving to San Francisco. While at the saloon one evening, a beautiful woman walks in and Albert saves her from a gruesome fate during the middle of a bar brawl. Grateful for his assistance, she befriends Albert and agrees to accompany him to the fair to make Louise jealous. Little does Albert know but Anna is actually the wife of the gunslinger, Clinch Leatherwood, and he will be in town in only 12 days.

Starring: Seth MacFarlane (Albert Stark), Charlize Theron (Anna), Amanda Seyfried (Louise), Neil Patrick Harris (Foy), Giovanni Ribisi (Edward), Sarah Silverman (Ruth), Liam Neeson (Clinch Leatherwood), Christopher Hagen (George Stark), Wes Studi (Cochise), Rex Linn (Sheriff/Narrator), Alex Bornstein (Millie), Ralph Garman (Dan), John Aylward (Pastor Wilson), Amick Byram (Marcus Thornton)

While the film had some interesting potential to be on par with Blazing Saddles, the actors were so underdeveloped that there is little connection with practically all of them. MacFarlane felt like he was a live-action version of Brian Griffin and just stayed on the more annoying aspects of the character, without nearly any sense of confidence or creativity. Theron, Seyfriend, Harris, Ribisi, and Silverman all seem like they got the surface level treatment and kept recycling the same jokes throughout the movie. The best character ended up being Liam Neeson as a villain, though he was barely more developed than the rest.

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Feeling like a western, live-action version of Family Guy, MacFarlane barely strayed away from the elements that originally made his television efforts successful. The story followed Albert the sheep herder, who failed to recognize the elements that made him a good, worthwhile man. It took losing his girlfriend and meeting someone who could see past his naivety to start to believe in himself. While the conflict was focused around Albert and Foy in Albert’s attempt to win back Louise, the real battle ended up becoming Albert versus Clinch. Though this did not develop until late the film, Clinch’s entanglement in Albert’s development served as a greater plot point than the repetitive and limited nature of his conflict with Foy.

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A film like this is not expected to have a fantastic story, although it should be at least worthwhile. The jokes were supposed to be the more engaging elements of the experience. The whole sheep herding element was really weak, especially when the best use of the sheep was in puns in a short exchange between Albert and Foy. The larger comedic element was meant to be centered around death in a variety of ways, but most of the deaths were actually already shown in the preview. In addition, the ones that are meant to be the funniest were centered around fart jokes. If it was not the sheep or the deaths, it was meant to center around the flaws of each character. The back and forth between Edward and Ruth was overplayed in its first scene but never got past confusion of Christian values. Foy was all about the mustache and yet another fart-like joke scheme. Even the cameos were underdeveloped (or spoiled in the preview). Doc Brown was a quick chuckle moment. Gilbert Gottfried as Lincoln just felt ill-conceived. Ewan McGregor was easily missable. Bill Maher simply imitated himself. The best of the cameos ended up being Jamie Foxx as Django (though he had only two lines) and Ryan Reynolds (who did not say a word and just looked at the camera).

This film used the Family Guy formula but just failed to make it interesting. It felt like there were supposed to be cutaways but it instead turned out to be a lot of kvetching and riffing on living in the Old West.

Dan’s Rating: 1.5/5

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