Blu-ray Review – A Million Ways To Die in the West
Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Street Date: October 7th 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: Theatrical- 1 hour 56 minutes
Extended- 2 hours 15 minutes
I’m just going to go ahead and say it; I really enjoyed A Million Ways to Die in the West. A rather odd way to start off a review, granted, but necessary when it’s a film that has received mostly mixed to negative reactions, and I’m left wondering, why? What did you expect, and why didn’t it work for you? For me, A Million Ways to Die in the West works not only as a consistently funny comedy, but as a sweet and goofy homage to the Western genre in a similar vein as Blazing Saddles (don’t get too worked up, I’m only comparing them in general terms).
In the film, Seth MacFarlane plays Albert Stark, a sheep farmer in the town of Old Stump, Arizona, a place where, as he puts it, anyone can die at any time for any reason. After cowardly talking his way out of a gunfight duel, Albert’s girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) breaks up with him, leaving him in a disheveled and lonely state, sulking and complaining to his only friends, Edward and Ruth (Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman). Meanwhile, local outlaw bad-ass Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson) orders his wife Anna (Charlize Theron) to lay low in Old Stump after he kills an elderly prospector for his gold. Under the watchful eye of one of Leatherwood’s posse (who the locals think is her brother), Anna meets the broken-hearted Albert when a bar fight breaks out and he saves her life.
The two immediately strike up a friendship with their sarcastic attitude towards life in the Old West, and sheer hatred for the morons surrounding them. Anna helps Albert make Louise jealous at the county fair, and teaches him a thing or two about shooting a gun to prepare for an upcoming duel with the hilariously mustached Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). Just as Albert and Foy’s duel nears, the villainous Clinch Leatherwood returns looking for Anna, who is now madly in love with Albert, and a final showdown of true love and bravery commences.
I hesitate to say too much more to avoid spoilers, but what my generic plot synopsis can’t do is explain the hilariousness that occurs throughout. Though I’d be lying if I said that every joke works, and it’s absolutely overlong, this film has some incredible laugh-out-loud moments, plenty of dirty jokes, and even some slapstick and true sweetness thrown in. It also stays fairly true to the Western spirit, with some surprisingly grand-scale cinematography and plenty of homages and in-jokes for fans of the genre.
I think MacFarlane is a very funny man, with some grand ideas in that brain of his, and though parts of his latest film don’t gel as well as one might hope, it’s still a heck of a lot funnier and more inventive in its execution than most comedies of the past decade. I really enjoyed the first several seasons of Family Guy, adored the hell out of Ted, and A Million Ways to Die in the West (though flawed in its runtime and consistency) is still a genuinely fun time at the movies.
This brand new High Definition transfer from Universal Studios Home Entertainment is near-flawless, delivering a crisp, beautifully rendered presentation with superb fine object detail, color grading, and clarity. The picture quality is so good that you can see every pore in the cast’ faces, every detail in the period clothing, and the desert surroundings have an almost tangible lifelike quality to them. This transfer is gorgeous!
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track included herein delivers the goods, with a nice balance between the upbeat score and dialogue mixed with subtle background effects and quality action sound design. No need to elaborate, it sounds great on this HD audio mix.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has included an array of special features for this Blu-Ray release of A Million Ways to Die in the West. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Audio Commentary- Available only on the Unrated cut of the film, several members of the cast and crew including Seth MacFarlane and Charlize Theron sit down to discuss the film. It’s a decent listen, with some insight into the film development and some engaging conversations about specific scenes in the film.
- Alternate Opening– Running roughly 3 ½ minutes, this alternate opening for the film opens up with the initial pre-gunfight showdown, with an extended joke about the other gunfighter being late to the gunfight and Seth’s “high noon” punctuality, as well as alternate dialogue between the two. It’s still very funny, but works better as presented in the film.
- Alternate Ending– Running 47 seconds, this alternate ending has Foy and Louise entering the Mexican border after Foy’s humiliation at the end of the film.
- Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes– Several solo extended and alternate scenes are presented here, some funny, some not, including: My Job Sucks (alternate), Blood Rag, Albert & Edward walk & talk (alternate), Wrapped Candies (extended), Puns at the Shooting Gallery, Barn Jones (extended), and Dream Sequence (alternate).
- Gag Reel– It’s an absolute blast watching MacFarlane, Theron, Ribisi, and everyone else fumble through their dialogue and deal with some of the on-location problems associated with the shoot. I live for this stuff, and the cast clearly had a great time making the movie.
- Once Upon a Time in a Different West– Running over 10 minutes in length, this is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film with plenty of fun interviews with the cast and crew.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Universal Studios Home Entertainment includes an attractive slipcover featuring the main cast from the film. On the reverse of the packing you’ll find a plot synopsis, a list of special features, and technical specifications for the discs. On the inside of the packaging you’ll find a Blu-Ray disc, a DVD disc, and an Ultraviolet Digital Copy Code (not pictured). All in all, this is a fairly standard Blu-Ray edition from Universal.
Though it received a mixed reaction from critics, I found A Million Ways to Die in the West to be outrageously funny while also working as a sweet and goofy homage to the Western genre. I hope, as the years go by, that more people will come to appreciate it. If you go in with low expectations, which was certainly the case for me after hearing some of the reviews, I think you may be pleasantly surprised by its humor and charm. The Blu-Ray edition from Universal Studios Home Entertainment features a stellar Blu-Ray transfer, great audio, and decent special features for fans. Recommended.
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