Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Million Ways to Die in the West (Seth MacFarlane, 2014) Review

If we were to look over what film genre churns out the least films, it could arguably be the western genre. Yes, we do get the occasional great film such as Rango, True Grit and Django Unchained but that's just it. "Occasional". I, for one, would love to see much more from this genre so here comes Seth MacFarlane's latest film after the success of Ted, A Million Ways to Die in the West. Does it not only live up to Seth's previous works but also to the western genre itself? Let's find out.

In the western frontier in 1882, a cowardly sheep farmer named Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) is a man who hates the west due to how easy it is to die and how many forms of death there are ranging from being impaled by a stampeding bull to getting a splinter. After getting split up from his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried), a mysterious woman known as Anna (Charlize Theron) comes to town and Albert instantly makes a connection. The problem? Her husband is the most notorious gun slinger in the west, Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson). Anna must train Albert to survive in the west while dealing with his own vendetta against his ex-girlfriends new lover, Foy (Neil Patrick-Harris).

So why was Ted such a success and why did this one flop? Personality, I think it's because of the genre. The general movie going audience would be up for a contemporary, smack talking film with a sense of humour derived from Family Guy yet they may more skeptical to see something that defies this with it's archaic setting and more flesh out humour. It's a shame really because the setting is easily the best thing about the film. Seth does a great job of recapturing the west through the use of wonderful landscapes and a great soundtrack (knowing Seth, this was inevitable). It brought back the lust for being a cowboy that westerns did so well. I also mentioned the flesh out humour. For the most part, this is true as many jokes stick the landing and had the audience at my showing roaring with laughter (funniest bit? All I'm saying is "Abe Lincoln"). However, there are some very cringe worthy, gross-out moments and, it's safe to say, I hate gross-out comedy. That's the main reason I declare The Hangover Part II the worst in the trilogy and find the Scary/Disaster/Epic Movie franchise to be the scum of cinema and the lowest form of film.

While the first two acts had me hooked, A Million Ways to Die in the West overstays its welcome a tad bit. The last act feels to bloated and crammed with what seems like another plot. Yes, the first two acts get closure but really, they should've just fleshed them out into a three act structure. The ending also feels a bit rushed to be honest. The final duel has loads of build up and, while it comes to a satisfying yet hilariously well written conclusion, the closure is rushed out instantly, almost as if they were aiming for a specific running time. Then again, the ending gave us one of the best cameos in film history. In fact, there are three excellent cameos that I dare not ruin but I lost it at all three of them. The cast is interesting, to say the last. Seth MacFarlane holds the film fine but Liam Neeson and Amanda Seyfried feel wasted. Neeson leaves an impression but still doesn't appear that much. Then again, Neil Patrick-Harris and Charlize Theron are putting their all into this while the supporting cast including Giovanni Ribisi, returning from Ted (and his connection to Ted leads to an amazing reference to it...try to spot it) and Sarah Silverman also fair well.

A Million Ways to Die in the West is a flawed yet entertaining comedy with a well realised setting. Do I think the critics are being harsh? Yes but some of their points are still valid (the last act sounds like a universal complaint to me). This was one of my most anticipated films thsi year as Seth MacFarlane proved himself able to deliver a great film with Ted and, while missing a mark by a tiny gap, I do look forward to his next film project. Looking back on his two films, part of me wishes he would put his TV career to rest and continue his film making career. I will be remember A Million Ways to Die in the West much more than I will the past several seasons of Family Guy, that's for sure.

While it has some major flaws, this comedy does the western setting justice with the highlights being the fantastic cameos and the great soundtrack.

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