Movie Review – A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

Director: Seth MacFarlane

Stars: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Giovanni Ribisi, Neil Patrick Harris, Amanda Seyfried, Sarah Silverman and Liam Neeson

A Million Ways to Die in the West takes place in the old American frontier, in a small town called Old Stump. Albert (MacFarlane) is a sheep farmer, and a coward. After he shirks the challenge of a gunfight his girlfriend Louise (Seyfried) breaks up with him. Albert is heartbroken and wants to win her back, so he challenges her new beau, Foy (Harris) to a gunfight, even though he has no chance of winning. The beautiful Anna, (Theron) arrives in town, and forms an instant bond with Albert after he saves her life. She teaches him how to shoot, but unbeknownst to Albert, her husband is the dastardly cutthroat Clinch Leatherwood (Neeson), who does not take kindly to Albert’s overtures towards his wife.

I’ve liked most of MacFarlane’s work and I loved Ted. I also love Westerns, so I was looking forward to this. Unfortunately, it mostly misses the mark. The usual blend of toilet humour and inappropriate jokes can only carry you so far, but when a lot of these fail to land you have to have a decent story to go with it, and that was absent. The plot just wasn’t that interesting and while the actors tried to do the best with what they had, it wasn’t enough. The characters were broad stereotypes and the relationship beats were predictable and cliched. You can tell what’s going to happen as you’ve seen the same thing a hundred times before. I could have forgiven it if the jokes landed, but most of them didn’t work. There were some funny comments and the majority of the slapstick humour did work but that’s about it.

Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman initially started off as a big part of the film but then they were dropped for the most part of it, and it seemed strange to focus on them at the beginning then just forget about them until the end of the film. And I have to say, I don’t think MacFarlane is really leading man material (it’s also difficult to shake the image of Brian). It was directed well, and one thing I love about Westerns is the scenery, and MacFarlane certainly captures the dusty red horizon. I like the fact that he managed to work in a few pop culture references as well, even though it was set in a time before pop culture existed.

Overall thought, it just didn’t quite click. The jokes weren’t there, the story wasn’t there, and most of the characters weren’t interesting, so I can’t really recommend it.

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