From the guy who brought you Ted, written by, directed by, and starring Seth McFarlane, A Million Ways To Die In The West is every inch a Seth McFarlane comedy; a comedy/western that’s rude, crude, a bit of guilty fun, and in places actually pretty damn funny.
Seth headlines the cast as cowardly farmer Albert Stark, and finds himself pining for the woman who left him (Amanda Seyfried, Les Misérables), but growing increasingly close to Anna (Charlize Theron, Prometheus), the hot, mysterious, quick-drawing, new woman in town, who just happens to be laying-low, and hiding the fact she’s married to the most ruthless bandit (and expert gunslinger) in the territory, Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson, Non-Stop); the vicious killer you just know is going to rear his head the second Albert and Anna get close.
Actually it’s not just Clinch’s arrival that can be seen coming a mile off, but every twist, and turn, and yes, even most of the jokes are pretty predictable as well. But it’s not really the plot that makes a comedy movie worth watching, it’s the humour; and if you like Seth’s brand of satire, swearing, slapstick, and off-the-wall, over-the-top, bitching/weirdness, then you’re in for a real treat with A Million Ways To Die In The West.
Seth’s commentary on life in the old west may be spot-on, and somewhat amusing, but feels a little out of place in a western (he seems much more like a modern man who’s been dumped back in time, with the way he whines about the conditions and hardships of the era), and in fact a lot of the jokes themselves (particularly at the beginning of the film, where the pacing is a little off), seem quite disjointed, and much less organic than they should; it often feels like a series of western-based sketches rather than a properly flowing comedy movie; even if the the splendid examples of grizzly ways to die are both welcome, gloriously over-the-top, and undeniably funny. And in that respect, it’s clear that the Family Guy styling has been applied to A Million Ways To Die In The West.
This is also the first time many viewers will have seen Seth McFarlane in a live-action role (largely because this is his first time in a major live-action role – uncredited Flashforward agent, and Movie 43 appearance aside), and it’s not that difficult to see why; whilst he’s not a bad actor by any means (he carries the film a lot better than a number of leading comedy actors may have done), he’s not exceptional either, and has such a recognisable voice, that when you’re watching A Million Ways to Die In The West it’s hard not to picture Ted in a cowboy hat; and as the obscenities fly, and the rudeness creeps out, and sometimes falls a little flat, you can’t help thinking the same jokes would’ve worked a lot better coming from a talking teddy bear.
Having said that, Seth’s still pretty watchable, and naturally a very funny guy, he also works well with Charlize Theron; the Monster/Prometheus actress who’s undeniably talented, easy to watch, developed a nice rapport with Seth, and handles the comedy pretty well (even if she looks and feels a touch out of place here and there); and managed to assemble a fairly decent supporting cast, which includes Giovanni Ribisi (Ted); a hugely talented man who plays Albert’s best friend (a man who’s deeply in love with his prostitute girlfriend, but yet to consummate their love); Sarah Silverman (the Wreck It Ralph actress who plays the aforementioned whore), Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother); the moustache enthusiast who steals away Albert’s girl (and even works in one of his HIMYM catchphrases); Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, and Christopher Hagen (The Lone Ranger), not to mention the three actors which provide two absolutely brilliant cameos, and round out a decent all-round comedy/western cast.
Plot-wise it’s fairly simple (would you expect much more from a Seth McFarlane film? or any comedy film for that matter?), but it works, it’s engaging enough, and the chemistry between McFarlane and Theron does a great job of carrying the film to its eventual conclusion (which does take about half an hour longer than it needed to), but as it’s basically a romantic comedy at heart, and given the fact Albert seems like a man lost in time, it’s hard not to think Seth may have been better off crafting another modern day rom-com for himself and Ms Theron, rather than The West.
In the end though, it’s funny. It’s not brilliant (far from it), and a good number of the jokes don’t even warrant much more than a titter, but it is funny. Ted was better all round, there’s no denying that, but this is a great way to bridge the gap before Ted 2, and being only McFarlane’s second time in the director’s chair, he’s done a stand-up job. If you’re not a fan of raunchy comedies, swearing, toilet-humour, and thought the trailers looked to be in bad taste (it’s a shame the various trailers actually spoilt every one of the film’s main jokes), then this isn’t for you. But if you’re a Family Guy fan, if you loved Ted, or think Seth McFarlane is the best thing since sliced bread, then you’ll love A Million Ways To Die In The West; a flawed, but fantastically funny comedy in places.