Dir: Seth MacFarlane
Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Neil Patrick Harris and Liam Neeson
Synopsis: As a cowardly farmer begins to fall for the mysterious new woman in town, he must put his new-found courage to the test when her husband, a notorious gun-slinger, announces his arrival.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
*Reviewer Note #2: Reviewing comedies for me is hard for a couple of reasons. One, you risk the chance of ruining a joke or can’t get into a joke because, again, you might ruin it. And two, what you find funny may not be funny to other people. So I’ll do my best to review this. Bare with me. *
A lot of people in Hollywood make a big deal about a first time director’s second movie. And a lot of the time, those people don’t end up liking the second movie. While sometimes it is justified, other times they say the director didn’t do what worked in their first movie (did you get all that?). Seth MacFarlane gets back in the directors chair after his hit comedy Ted two years ago. This time he actually puts himself in front of the camera without the help of a teddy bear. But MacFarlane still keeps his humor in tact, which is probably what fans of MacFarlane, including myself, like to see.
Albert (MacFarlane) is an unhappy sheep farmer living in the Arizona frontier town of Old Stump in 1882. He hates everything about living in the West, but his life gets worse when he’s dumped by his girlfriend Louise (Seyfried) after talking his way out of a duel and she ends up dating the town’s “Moustachery” owner Foy (Harris). Even though his friends, the virgin Edward (Ribisi) and his prostitute girlfriend Ruth (Silverman), try to cheer him up it doesn’t work. That is until he meets Anna (Theron).
Anna takes a liking to Albert, that she evens tries to help Albert get Louise back. What Albert doesn’t know is that Anna is hiding the secret that the only reason she’s in Old Stump is so she can lay low until her husband, the notorious outlaw Clinch Leatherwood (Neeson), comes to pick her up.
Like I stated before, if you’re a fan of MacFarlane’s humor then you will enjoy this, if you’re not, you are most likely going to be really offended or feel really dumb for spending your money on a movie you knew you weren’t going to like. MacFarlane this time around doesn’t have any animation or funny voices to fall on, it’s all on him and his great supporting cast. Luckily, for the most part, they manage to hold everything together.
MacFarlane as the main character does a pretty descent job playing a guy that would rather talk things out then risk getting shot during a duel. Albert is also the only person who can observe all the absurdities of the time period but still be confused and dumbfounded as everyone else when it comes to some things. Even with all this, Albert isn’t really the perfect character, he’s a coward after all but he’s also in love with a girl that he’s done everything for and hasn’t really done anything for him. As for directing, you have to give it to him that he can pull a great supporting cast. But also that he can get great performances out of the cast. Whether it’s physical comedy or even having the gull to make fun of one his actors, and it’s not a knock against their career past roles but how they look. And despite the movie really being a comedy, MacFarlane does do a pretty good job making A Million Ways to Die in the West feel like an actual Western (including the opening titles).
The supporting cast is great. Charlize Theron’s Anna is quick witted just as much as Albert is and teaches him how to shoot. Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman are dopey but sweet and their relationship is just ridiculous that you can’t help but laugh every time their relationship is bought up or talked about. Seyfried is okay as the ex but doesn’t really have much to do. But Neil Patrick Harris, who is almost always a scene stealer in what he does, that yes you guessed, steals some of the scenes that he’s in. I think his “Mustache Song” might be a standout sequence for some people. Liam Neeson’s even though he’s playing the villain, doesn’t have a ton of screen time. He does fine although his villainous gunslinger is menacing just because Neeson is playing him.
The comedy is a bit all over the place. It can be physical at one moment, a dick joke the next, and then an offensive joke. Hell, maybe all three at once. But you have to hand it to MacFarlane, he does have great comedy timing and hopefully non-fans can at least appreciate that.
All in all, A Million Ways to Die in the West will have a split audience, even if you’re a Seth MacFarlane fan. When the jokes work, they’re hilarious. The cast is great and the tone that MacFarlane sets in the movie really works. Also, look out for some cool surprises.
A Million Ways to Die in the West
4 out of 5