UK Release Date: 30th May 2014
Runtime: 116 minutes
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Writer: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman, Giovanni Ribisi
Synopsis: A cowardly sheep farmer inadvertently becomes romantically involved with the wife of a scary gunslinger.
Seth MacFarlane seems to have fully recovered from his poorly received stint as Oscars host. Off the back of bawdy mo-cap comedy Ted, the Family Guy creator is now taking on the comedy western, with A Million Ways to Die in the West. It’s not exactly Blazing Saddles, but it’s a perfectly enjoyable night at the cinema.
Albert (MacFarlane) is a cowardly sheep farmer, disillusioned with the violence of the Wild West. After his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) leaves him for a moustachioed slimeball (Neil Patrick Harris), he runs into the beautiful and equally cynical Anna (Charlize Theron). Unfortunately, the pair’s bonding is cut short by the arrival of Anna’s husband, Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), who just so happens to be a formidable, murderous outlaw.
Just like Ted, there’s a sense of indulgence about A Million Ways to Die in the West. MacFarlane seems content to hurl gags and half-jokes at the wall in the hope that some of them stick. For every joke that brings a real belly laugh, there’s half a dozen that barely raise a chuckle. Fortunately, the film is never far away from one of its real flashes of excellent comedy.
| "I’m not the hero. I’m the guy in the crowd making fun of the hero’s shirt; that’s who I am."
It must be said that, however game the other performers in the film are, Seth MacFarlane is not a screen presence. The charisma he brings to his voice roles is almost entirely absent from his live action persona in A Million Ways to Die in the West.
Charlize Theron and Liam Neeson do a great job with the material, but they can’t quite make up for MacFarlane. Thankfully, the other performers in the film are very funny indeed, with Sarah Silverman and Giovanni Ribisi providing a number of highlights.
There’s also a level of cameo appearances that wouldn’t go amiss in a Muppets movie. They’re far too good to spoil in this review, but Gilbert Gottfried especially gets an absolute snorter of a scene and it’s worth watching out for some iconic characters from the history of the postmodern western.
| "This is my first vagina.”
A Million Ways to Die in the West is far from perfect and often ambles along. But thanks to some snappy writing and admirably committed performers, the film is another success for the filmography of Seth MacFarlane.
Pop or Poop?
It has received a kicking from some critics, but A Million Ways to Die in the West is a brilliantly funny comedy movie. Scatological humour is the name of the game, but it’s often so meticulously measured that it really works.
A cavalcade of cameos keep the laughs coming, even as MacFarlane struggles in his capacity as lead. It’s a minor stutter for MacFarlane, but a successful one.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.