An Infantile Parody of Western Cinema
Albert (Seth MacFarlane) is a cowardly sheep farmer who is not only struggling to make ends meat, but has been dumped by his long time girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfried). Determined to win her back, Albert becomes friends with Anna (Charlize Theron) in an attempt to make Louise jealous. Over the next week, Anna shows Albert that he has a lot more to offer than he gives himself credit for.
In 1999, Family Guy aired for the first time and was instantly hailed a cult hit. I absolutely loved the first three seasons of Family Guy before it was initially cancelled by Fox. The show in its prime was fresh, funny, and most importantly, clever. When Fox brought Family Guy back in 2005, the show never felt as fresh or intelligent as did during those first three seasons. Since Family Guy’s return, MacFarlane has been trying to rehash the same run on gags from the initial episodes while the story-lines for the new seasons seem to have become secondary to the non-stop jokes.
This brings me to the issues that I had with A Million Ways to Die in the West. Before I go into detail about the humor or the actual characters, I must first talk about the story. The entire story feels secondary to the film’s jokes and while that might work for a 22 minute animated television show, I can safely say that it definitely doesn’t work for a 116 minute film. The story here is thinner than Victoria Beckham and what makes matters worse is that the plot is so haphazardly thrown within the film that you almost forget that its even there. Most of A Million Ways feels simply like one bad comedy sketch after another set to a wild west backdrop.
I have watched almost every project that Seth MacFarlane has been a part of and honestly, I think he is one funny mother fucker when he wants to be. MacFarlane either hits right on the mark or misses completely. The problem with this film is that Seth MacFarlane relies way too much on cheap infantile humor to sell his film to the masses. There are moments of cleverness sprinkled throughout that poke fun at religion, race, and classic films, however, most of it gets lost between the overbearing amount of fart and sex jokes. Lets put it this way, for every intelligent or clever joke, there are about 12 infantile ones that instantly overshadow the good joke.
The worst thing about the humor was that the idea behind this film is actually pretty funny. The whole “people die in the west” aspect could have been funny, but it just gets lost in the mix. When a film doesn’t have a consistent story and relies on jokes that revolve around people shitting in hats or sticking a flower in someone’s ass, you kind of lose the viewer that is looking for something clever within your film. I really wish I was lying about that last sentence, but both those scenes do actually happen in the film as sad as that is.
Moving on to the acting, it seemed like every actor was playing second fiddle to Seth MacFarlane’s Albert. This would have been perfectly fine, if it wasn’t for the simple fact that Albert was a rehashed version of a character that Ben Stiller should have played. Albert at first was pretty likable, but as the film continues on he becomes whinny and annoying. Don’t get me wrong, there are some moments in Million Ways where MacFarlane shines, but again he seems to embrace the infantile moments more than the clever ones. I think MacFarlane could be the main focus of a film, however, it is clear after this film that it shouldn’t be one that he personally has written.
This brings me to the following question: why would anyone pick an all-star cast like this and not doing anything with them? This film features Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Neil Patrick Harris, and Sarah Silverman. I honestly can not believe that MacFarlane got all these notable actors and made them into a silly run on gag. Giovanni played the naive religious virgin boyfriend, Sarah Silverman played the whore that did anything that the guys wanted her to do, Liam Neeson played his typical bad-ass self, Neil Patrick Harris played the self obsessed cocky boyfriend that was in love himself, and Amanda Seyfried was the attractive eye candy that didn’t do anything but stare into the camera with her big blue eyes. No one other than Theron were memorable or brought any of their acting skills to the table.
As for Theron, she was without a doubt the savior of the film. Her performance was solid all around and honestly even with the piss poor script, Theron still brought her A-game. What’s strange about Theron in this film is that even her chemistry with MacFarlane was surprisingly believable. I just wish that the script did more with their story and developed their relationship more then a gun shooting montage. The scenes between MacFarlane and Theron were some of the film’s strongest even if they didn’t really have anything to go off of besides poorly executed jokes.
The only other highlights within the film are the homages to western cinema as well as the cameo appearances. There are a lot of throwbacks to classic films from the set design to the opening and closing credit sequences. There are hints of Blazing Saddles and High Noon here as well, but they honestly just serve as a test to your film knowledge rather than anything else. The cameos, on the other hand, are without a doubt is the film’s greatest attribute. The cameos include Christopher Lloyd, Bill Maher, Jamie Foxx, Ryan Reynolds, and Gilbert Gottfried and all of them are hilarious. It is truly amazing that when you are as popular as Seth MacFarlane is that you can get nearly anyone to make an appearance in your film, no matter how small or ridiculous the appearance is.
All in all, A Million Ways to Die in the West was a major disappointment. The film hinted at being something great but instead decided to go the Adam Sandler route and become something that the vast majority of film lovers will despise for many years to come. I can only blame MacFarlane for all the film’s flaws and more so for allowing the film to become as mundane and infantile as it was. It goes without saying that MacFarlane is smart, funny, and highly intelligent, yet for some reason he decided to make a film that just continues to prove why society is only becoming dumber by the minute. I am disappointed with you, MacFarlane. I really am.
MovieManMenzel’s final rating for A Million Ways to Die in the West is a 4 out of 10.