Unsatisfied with the present, we humans often romanticize the past in what is called “Golden Age Thinking” (at least that’s what Michael Sheen calls it in Midnight In Paris). Life seemed so simple in the past, especially because we now live in a complicated age of technology and all the strings that come attached with it. Image growing up in the 80’s, where pop-music was at its highest and the clothing was absurdly awesome! Seems like the perfect time to be alive, but then you also remember that people lived in fear during the Cold War… Maybe the 20’s? Oh, I forgot about racism, the Dust Bowl, prohibition, and then there’s the Great Depression about ten-years later… Maybe the past isn’t as good as we think it is…
In 1882, the Western Frontier was the hottest place on Earth (figuratively and literally) and all who inhabited it seemed fine with their current conditions, except for a cowardly sheep farmer. Albert (Seth MacFarlane) is a man born out of time, as he has quite a few opinions on why the West is such a terrible place. He gripes to his best friend Edward (Giovanni Ribisi), who’s girlfriend Ruth (Sarah Silverman) is a prostitute. On top of all the death and disease and lack of natural control in the West, Albert has just been dumped by Louise (Amanda Seyfried), who’s left him for another man – a more moustached man by the name of Foy (Neil Patrick Harris).
When the notorious outlaw Clinch (Liam Neeson) sends his wife Anna (Charlize Theron) to stay in Albert’s town for a couple of weeks while he deals with bad-guy business, things start to change for Albert. Immediately, he and Anna hit it off, as they both despise the west and the things that are happening around them. Anna is tough, a great shot, and just as witty as Albert, which obviously catches his attention. However, what’s going to happen when Clinch gets word that his wife has been hanging around with another man? Hell, Albert doesn’t even know how to shoot a gun, let alone tend to his sheep.
A Million Ways To Die In The West is the latest outing for Director/Writer/Actor Seth MacFarlane and it’s quite a good time. After 2012’s Ted became such a hit, MacFarlane decided to keep up his streak and went on to make this film, a social commentary and satire about the Frontier and the West, which allows for a lot of great humor in its exploration. MacFarlane, known for his shows Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show, has a knack for smart and offensive humor that often sparks controversy and it’s no surprise why. Tons of people love this guy and there are many people who despise him. For me, I fall into the former group, as I think this guy is a comedic genius.
Seth MacFarlane brings a lot to this film, as he wrote the insanely funny dialouge that’s present throughout. The laughs come in all shapes and sizes, with some jokes being more intelligent than others. As a director, MacFarlane shows a lot of promise with his sweeping shots and quick-zooms. His tacking shots are also nice and we even get some close-ups with the characters that add some depth to the character’s emotion. As an actor, this is the first major role that MacFarlane has appeared live in, which made this film all the more exciting. His facial expressions and general reactions to the things he sees and hears around him is great and it’s evident that he needs to appear in more films, as he has an amazing on-screen presence. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that his delivery is supreme.
Supporting MacFarlane is a Grade-A cast that brings a lot more to the film as well. Charlize Theron is pretty blunt with her humor, but it works well and her more sincere side adds some more emotional elements to the film as a whole. She and MacFarlane play off of each other very well. Neeson, toting his actual Irish accent, is menacing and slightly funny, bringing a darker presence to the film. Comedy couple Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman are excellent, as his timid church-boy is a perfect parallel to her hooker church-girl. Neil Patrick Harris, channeling his inner Barney Stinson, has a ton of fun twirling his mustache and showing off his dancing skills. Even Amanda Seyfried made me laugh and this role is something she doesn’t often succeed with, so props to her.
More than anything, the film’s premise and subject matter is what really emphasizes the comedy. While many view the West as an adventurous time that was full of excitement, MacFarlane begs to differ. A Million Ways To Die In The West is smart, as it jokes about the disease, rabid animals, outlaws, and even weather that can kill you in an instant. Everything sucks about this time and the jokes don’t stop with death. A lot of the humor also comes from time-period jokes that are so simple, yet so effective. Humans love to romanticize the past, but they don’t often explore all the reasons why the past was also a pretty terrible place to live. MacFarlane shows us the beautiful Arizona Red Rocks and then immediately follows that shot with death and disease, creating a hilarious parallel. This was just an awesome idea that’s executed wonderfully.
Suffering from some of the same problems that Ted suffered from, A Million Ways To Die In The West does overstay its welcome a bit too long. Coming in at almost two-hours, the film does drag towards the end, as the film breaks from the comedy to focus on the dramatic portions. While those dramatic bits aren’t necessarily bad, they’re not entirely all that engaging. Similar to Family Guy, this film does go off in some odd directions and not every joke sticks, but there are certainly jokes aplenty. While they weren’t issues for me, there were some jokes and moments in the film that are sure to offend people and I heard some groans in the theater. If you’re open-minded and don’t get offended easily by comedy, you should be fine.
For his second outing, Seth MacFarlane has shown a lot of growth in some areas and he establishes his face to go along with his name. He’s got the world on a string right now and I hope he keeps directing, writing, and acting, because he’s clearly one of the most talented guys in the business. Off-topic, but he’s also an incredible singer and has an album out. A Million Ways To Die In The West is smart, funny, and often outrageous and it’s sure to please most audiences. While it’s not as good as Ted (in my humble opinion), it’s still a very funny movie that is a welcomed addition to MacFarlane’s collection. If you’re looking for laughs, it’s time to head West!
A Million Ways To Die In The West Trailer