Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Film Review: Seth MacFarlane's A Million Ways to Die in the West

Many have compared this film, the sophomore directorial effort from Seth MacFarlane, to Mel Brooks' 1974 western comedy, Blazing Saddles. I see the reasoning behind such a comparison, as they are both of the same genre, and there are definite similarities between the way both Brooks and MacFarlane can interweave low brow fart jokes with witty satire, but to be honest, the film that came to my mind, while watching A Million Ways to Die in the West, was the 1948 Bob Hope vehicle, The Paleface. Here, MacFarlane takes on the Bob Hopian role of cowardly funny man who must find his courage by the end of the final reel. But, alas dear faithful readers, the comedy in MacFarlane's western comedy is just too hit and miss to, to ever, er...hit. Wait, what? No, seriously there are some great and hilarious moments throughout (the script is purposefully out of place and modern, opting to satirizing the terrors of old west life), but the film never seems to congeal into more than a string of loose moments, all dangling from the proverbial precipice, maybe waiting for something to come along and either pull them up, or perhaps, in a nod to the film's title, kick them over the edge to their one in one millionth death. Now how's that for some hyperbole?

To be honest, I liked the film. I didn't love it as I was hoping to, or even expecting to, but I did legitimately enjoy the picture. Maybe that's enough. Let's hope so, because that's all we got. Now some, or shall I say, many, are already predisposed to hating this film because that is the emotion they have toward Seth MacFarlane. Personally, I don't get it. I love the guy - which is why I was both hoping and expecting to love the film. There actually isn't that much in between these two emotions, when it comes to Mr. MacFarlane. Evidently, the guy's a love him or hate him kinda guy. Well I'm here to tell ya, despite not being enraptured by his latest comedy, I love the guy. The comedy he has given us on Family Guy and American Dad (let's just leave The Cleveland Show out of this, shall we?) has been heee-larious. At least to me. Others have stated that it is mundane or ugly or just plain unfunny. MacFarlane has been accused of stealing material from others before him. I know he has somehow stolen several of my jokes, but that's neither here nor there. It is these people, these haters, who have already put this film down, before it even opens. Hey, I even liked the guy as Oscar host (but then I thought Letterman was a great host too). But I digress. I am not here to champion my love for the comedy stylings of Seth MacFarlane (although, two birds and all that) but to say what I thought of his film, A Million Ways to Die in the West. So, exactly what did I think?

As I said, I liked, but didn't love the thing. The same can be said of MacFarlane's directorial debut, Ted. Both films had me laughing like a mad man at times, but neither film had me going the whole time. Yes, MacFarlane is great at the jokes and satire, and whimsical silliness, but the writer/director needs to work on his ability to bring it all together in that aforementioned cohesive whole. Unlike Ted though, which had Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg as it's star (along with MacFarlane's omnipresent voice, as the titular teddy bear of the story), this time around we get MacFarlane himself as the lead. And ya know what? Even with all those haters still hatin', MacFarlane does a good job in the role of the cowardly man-out-of-time sheep farmer in 1882 Arizona (and yes, there are scenes filmed in John Ford's Monument Valley). With his matinee idol looks and boyish charm, MacFarlane should have no problem commanding any screen he finds himself projected upon. And, lack of cohesive whole aside, MacFarlane does just that. We also get Charlize Theron (in the Jane Russell role if this is indeed a spiritual remake of The Paleface - and looking better than even she usually does) as the disenfranchised wife of the worst gunslinger in the territory, and a slew of other comedic types popping up (Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Neil Patrick Harris, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson as the aforementioned gunslinger). There are also (as is typical for MacFarlane) several fun cameos interspersed, though not as many as one would expect. And yes, despite some flaws, and perhaps a bit of an incomplete feeling, it did make this critic laugh. Of course all you haters should probably just stay away. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.


  1. I like Seth MacFarlane-I thought he was an excellent host for the Oscars, he just wasn't politically correct in the hypocritical world of Oscar territory. This guy knows funny, he knows how to write, he has a superb singing voice and can dance. I would love to talk with him about film cos he knows his stuff. I want to see this because I loved Ted. It may have missed in spots but I don't consider myself a critic (if I have to see that stupid J-adore commercial again i will hurl) so the movie worked for me. Let's see if this does. Now I want him to do a true blue original old fashioned musical...with his style of course

  2. A Seth MacFarlane musical would be quite stellar. He took the opportunity on Family Guy to toss in musical numbers, and even has one tossed in here as well. Can Mila Kunis sing?