A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

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Overall a fairly standard summer film that attempts to deliver on comedy but misses that target. It has some nice thought processes, some relatively funny moments too but on the whole it is a comedy with hardly any laughs or to be more precise laughs that are scattershot.

This film’s plot sees a cowardly useless sheep farmer named Albert (Seth MacFarlane) lose his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) for being said useless and cowardly. He plans to win her back as quite evidently she is the the best thing to happen for him and upon the mysterious arrival of two new western folk he gets that chance when working with one of the pair, a confident capable woman called Anna (Charlize Theron). The only problem is Albert gets himself involved in a duel with Louise’s new arrogant annoying squeeze (Neil Patrick Harris) and that’s not the only thing in the wild wild west that could kill him as he very well knows.

It defintley comes with the MacFarlane brand of humour and that cutaway vibe he is so known for with his popular cartoon show, ‘Family Guy’. It works to a degree at times with quick snap cuts showing something daft or gross providing humour but after a while it’s tiresome and the main issue is a lot of unnecessary crass child-like toilet humour. There is a random moment too that feels like MacFarlane wanted to dabble in odd CGI that is very reminiscent of the trippy hallucinogenic ride Brian went on when he took shrooms in ‘Family Guy’. The entire segment also feels like a Tim Burton-esque foray into a Dark Wonderland with floating sheep, a terrifying condor and plate eyes for Seyfried. This film ultimately fails on being that funny which is a shame as it could have been so much better.

One thing that really doesn’t help is the running time being overly long, with some smart editing and story work the film could have been snappier and felt shorter. It’s not great when a comedy can’t zip along like it should. The issue with this also lays in the clear predictability of the plot. It’s so obvious what the ending will be and where Albert will end up so to take so long to get there feels pointless and boring, even a few well pitched moments of comedy can’t save that drag.

The main thing going for this film that also sees the debut of MacFarlane stepping into cowboy boots of live action acting is that it has intelligent points and the star cameos that come now and then are genius. The clever core can be found in the negativity of setting up the Old West as a grimy wasteland filled with possibilities of death. The modern language and incredible OTT methods of dying get rid of that usual romanticism of Western movies and brings in a new interesting flavour. Seeing people like Ryan Reynolds and Ewan McGregor pop up is fun and inspired in blink and you’ll miss it cameos that do actually work well.

This movie does look gorgeous and the opening shots of the landscape and in fact the imagery throughout is on point to making this place look amazing even if the whole content of this plot is to set up the place as a dangerous worrying place to reside. Of course with Seth MacFarlane at the helm you get some relevant stirring score as he does love his live orchestral sounds to accompany his work and throughout it does add to this genre, it’s just not enough to detract from the often stupid humour that treats itself as being smarter than it really is.

MacFarlane is run of the mill as an actor in this though he does excel at pratfalls and the numerous knockdowns he recieves are quite funny to be truthful. Charlize Theron is ballsy and strong minded as the incoming love interest and acts well opposite the buffoonish lead. Seyfried does as well as she can with a limited role though props to her for taking part in a new sexual piece of foreplay that looks incredibly disgusting. Sarah Silverman and Giovanni Ribisi are sort of annoying and sort of sweet as Albert’s friends and odd couple, one a virgin and the other a prostitute. Liam Neeson is Liam Neeson in the west showing that snarl enough times to make sure you know he’s the bad guy and Neil Patrick Harris has some odd vocal tic after sentences that adds to his moustached douchey persona, though he does provide one of the funnier moments in the well choreographed sequence at the barn dance set to a musical number about…moustaches.

It’s a pretty limp affair that only serves up laughs from time to time and it’s one that makes you realise just how much Seth MacFarlane should stay behind the visage of a toon, getting back to trying to do clever things for the Griffins instead of trying to reinvent the Western.

5.5/10

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