Review of: “A Million Ways to Die in the West”
The story behind “A Million Ways to Die in the West” is not new or unique. However, what Seth MacFarlane’s combination of silly, gross and sharp humor does with standard western movie themes make’s this movie the “Blazing Saddles” (1974) for the Millennials.
I am not saying that Seth MacFarlane is as good of film maker as Mel Brooks, but both films take a modern, skewed, view of Old West themes and makes both smart and gross gags from them. There is even a scene in this movie with Neal Patrick Harris’ smarmy Foy character that could be compared with the “Blazing Saddles” famous cowboy farting scene. Of course, Seth as amped up the gross factor for a newer generation.
The west in the 1880s was a dangerous, dirty and depressing place to live. Why else do you never see anyone in photo’s from that time smiling? This concept is expressed early in the movie with Seth’s character Albert doing a very funny rant that starts with the phrase; “Everything that isn’t you is trying to kill you”.
It is within this background that a standard western is made fresh and funny. Seth MacFarlane is Albert a sheep farmer in Old Stump. His life sucks because his girlfriend Louise(Amanda Seyfried) breaks up with him to be with the owner of the Mustachery, Foy(Neil Patrick Harris). In the mean time, the meanest outlaw in the territory Clinch(Liam Neeson) is getting ready to rob a stage. Clinch sends his wife Anna (Charlize Theron) with a henchman to hide in Old Stump to wait for him.
Albert saves Anna from injury during a barroom fight. They become friends and she tries to help Albert make Louise jealous. After Albert issues a challenge to a gun fight to Foy at the County Fair (“people die at the fair”) she helps him prepare for the fight. As Albert and Anna spend more time together they end up in love. Naturally, because of this there is going to be a finally gunfight with Clinch but how can an inept Albert possible stay alive? Of course he will triumph, but Seth does find a unique way to get us to the inevitable happy ending.
This film is an excellent follow up to MacFarlane’s first film “Ted” (2012). His writing and directing are excellent and he used the scenery around Santa Fe and Monument Valley Utah exceedingly well. Seth MacFarlane is excellent as Albert and has a natural comedic style that particularly worked well with Charlize Theron’s Anna. Sarah Silverman’s and Giovanni Ribisi’s Ruth and Edward played well as Albert’s Greek Chorus but are not always as funny in their own odd storyline.
Neal Patrick Harris is perfect as the oily, mustachioed, asshole Foy. Amanda Seyfried was fine as the shallow Louise. But honestly there wasn’t much in the script for her and any big-eyed pretty actor would have done as well.
Of course Liam Neeson is perfect as Clinch. He plays the roll straight to the point of using his natural Irish accent. He provides the obligatory overriding menace and is the straight man for the film even when he isn’t in a scene.
So, after seeing this film I was left with a big question. That question is not should you should see this film, because you should. The question was not if Seth MacFarlane should do more films. Yes, please, do more! The big question is does Liam Neeson use an ass double?