Going In:

The trailers make this film look hilarious, but its Rotten Tomatoes score tells another story.  I’m hopeful, but not expecting much.

Review:

I don’t understand the appeal of Family Guy, I’ve never seen American Dad, and I only marginally enjoyed Ted, yet I still think Seth MacFarlane is one of the most talented guys working today.  He writes, directs, acts and sings, and he does each of these things pretty well.  I think his short stint as Oscar host is the closest we’ve seen to MacFarlane packaging his talents together into a singular showcase of his potential.  A Million Ways to Die in the West is his opportunity to build on that performance since he not only directed and co-wrote the film, he also plays the lead role.

MacFarlane plays Albert, a sheep farmer who sinks into a deep depression when his girlfriend breaks up with him  for being a coward.  He befriends the new girl in town, Anna (Charlize Theron), who tries to teach Albert the skills to win his love back from hew new beau, played by Neil Patrick Harris (with a truly magnificent mustache).  Albert spends a lot of time with Anna, upsetting her husband, the meanest outlaw in the West (played by Liam Neeson).

Theron and MacFarlane have a natural chemistry, playing off of each other very easily.  Liam Neeson does a good job as the gunfighter with an Irish accent, and Neal Patrick Harris steals every scene he’s in.  Giovanni Ribisi is great in his limited role (why isn’t he in more stuff?), and Amanda Seyfriend isn’t asked to do much, but she plays the part of the girlfriend well.  The only casting choice that drove me crazy was Sarah Silverman.  She basically plays herself here, making exactly the sort of jokes you’d expect her to make because you’ve heard her make them all before.  She plays a working whore who has had relations with everyone in town except her fiance, because she’s saving that for marriage.  That one-line high concept is repeatedly beat over the audiences head throughout the film, and it wears thin very quickly.

There’s a lot of funny content here, but unfortunately it’s overshadowed by some very forced and very low-brow humor.  MacFarlane seems to go a bit off the deep end when he works in film.  I imagine he has a huge list of jokes that he can’t use on television, so he saves them up for his next R-rated feature.  I’m guessing that someday the TV edit for this movie is going to be hilarious, and much shorter than the drawn-out version shown in theaters.

One thing MacFarlane absolutely nails is the atmosphere and feeling of the old-west.  From the beautiful sweeping landscapes to the wonderful musical score, A Million Ways to Die in the West feels like a legitimate Western.  There’s also a truly magnificent song about mustaches that will fondly stick in your head long after the rest of the film has been forgotten.

Don’t watch this one expecting to laugh throughout.  Watch it for the surprise cameos (one of which I found hilarious), watch it for the Western motif, and watch it for the surprising amount of heart MacFarlane somehow fits into these disposable movies he makes.  It isn’t consistently funny, but it is consistently fun.

Rated R because the FCC wasn’t watching.

A Million Ways to Die in the West Review
A mediocre film full of unrealized potential. Some funny moments, but not enough to be memorable.
Storytelling5
Craftsmanship7
Performances6
Satisfaction5
The Good
  • The Scenery (filmed in majestic New Mexico)
  • The music and score
  • The jokes that hit
The Bad/Ugly
  • Insistence on Potty Humor
  • Sarah Silverman
  • Feels a bit long
5.8Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)
0.0

About The Author

By day I’m a producer/director at a video game development studio. By night, I’m… um… yeah, i’m usually just a more tired producer/director at a video game development studio. BUT, by weekend I’m a husband, father, and critic of all things.