A Million Ways to Die in the West Movie Review

A Million Ways to Die in the West Movie Review
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Written by Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, and Wellesley Wild
Release Date: 30 May 2014
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Editor’s Rating: 2 out of 4 poop-filled hats

Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) is a coward. Up until now, he’s led a quiet life and never done anything he can be proud of. Avoiding confrontation and complaining about his life in the backwater town of Old Stump is all he seems to be good at, and as the movie opens, Louise, his girlfriend, leaves him because she finally has the nerve to tell him she can’t deal with it anymore.

Albert, heartbroken and depressed, gets hammered with his best friends Edward (Giovanni Ribisi), a shy and meek shoe repairman, and Ruth (Sarah Silverman), a prostitute with a voice like Shirley Temple and a mouth like, well, a prostitute. Just as Albert has resolved himself to give up the family shepherding business and move to San Francisco, a bar fight breaks out and Albert ends up saving a woman that will turn his world upside down.

I’m going to admit, I was genuinely scared of this film when I sat down to watch it. Most of the buzz surrounding the film was that it was a highly-lauded film that fell flat on its face, and I was worried that this was just going to be a terrible movie. And while it’s not a great movie, I tend to think that this was a film amped up on hype that others put up around it, when they shouldn’t have been expecting anything else. Let’s get this straight: this a western made by the dudes who made Family Guy. If you were expecting the successor to Blazing Saddles, you are sorely mistaken. MacFarlane and crew are going to make the movie they want to make, and if you don’t like it, well, it’s not like they care. They’re friggin’ loaded.

While the flick is on the long side, there are some gags here that work really well. Ribisi and Silverman make an adorable on-screen couple, and the disconnect between Ruth’s job and her devotion to celibacy with Edward is actually kind of touching, in an inappropriate sort of way. Albert Stark’s dad is a little funny the first couple of times you see him, and of course, Neil Patrick Harris is basically perfect in any role he’s placed in. There are a few cameos in the film, two of which stick out in my mind as to what makes the movie great, but also why people hated it.

The first comes as a reference to another famous western, one that I don’t want to spoil, but trust me, it’s great. The second is from Ryan Reynolds, and his appearance is funny only if you've seen MacFarlane's first movie, Ted. In that film, Reynolds had a quick little part in which he has no lines, no anything. He’s like an extra. This time, he has the same part, except he gets shot by the film’s villain. I think it might be that tendency towards self-reference that really irritates people.

The entire film is based on a premise that is romanticized in other westerns: living in the wild west would have sucked. It was a terrible time to be alive, and we’re dumb if we bought into the notion that had already been romanticized to us with guys like Roy Rogers and John Wayne. The only problem with that angle is that the dialogue ends up having to come from a voice that doesn’t feel like it meshes with the environment, like the whiny kid’s clique in high school - we hate everything, and here’s a point-of-view that’s entirely idealistic and unwarranted given our current state of being explaining why. That voice happens to come from Albert, who is so busy explaining why everything is terrible that people literally die while he’s trying to explain it all. It just takes too long.

And you know what? We don’t care. After the first diatribe explaining how crappy it was to live in the west, we were on board. MacFarley and Me do a great job of setting up premises quick because of the in-and-out nature of TV shows, but it feels like they lose confidence after Albert’s one-millionth monologue about the crapfest he and his friends live in. We get it, guys. Keep shoving people in our faces and make them do funny things. This is what we paid for. And to the movie’s credit, it does that very well.

So, was it the great successor everyone was hoping for? No. But was it exactly what you would have expected from Seth MacFarlane? Yeah. And leave it at that. Just shut up and laugh.

**This film is not for kids. It’s rated R for a reason. I watched this film on a premium channel using a service I pay for. I was not compensated for this review.**

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