Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Million Ways to Die in the West: Movie Review

Funny when it's parodying the west, less funny when the plot drags on.

This time, Seth MacFarlane has decided to adventure out in front of the camera as Albert Starks, a guy who does not belong in the American west in 1882. And, indeed, the funniest jokes in “A Million Ways to Die in the West” stem from the point of view of somebody from modern times who couldn’t understand why anybody would even want to try living in western times, because there probably really is a million ways to die.   2014

Directed by: Seth MacFarlane

Screenplay by: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild

Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Giovanni Ribisi and Charlize Theron

I liked the movie when it was a parody of a western “classic”, or when it was an indictment of society’s current reverence of western times. Occasionally it would remind me of Woody Allen – if he ever attempted a western comedy parody. MacFarlane’s Albert is scared of death, is scared of anything that might kill him, hates guns, hates murderers, is insanely neurotic, likes girls solely because they might like him back, and frequently finds himself having to talk his way out of piston duels or any other life-affronting situations. I certainly liked the idea of his character, but I’m not sure if the problem was that MacFarlane has rarely been a ‘live action’ actor or that this type of character does not belong in a movie built solely on crude and crass jokes.

The plot made the film seem like it was just dragging on. Albert loses a girl, vows to win a girl back, has to figure out how to win a girl back, gets in and out of gun duels, loses girl, vows to win girl back, etc…, etc…. The jokes involving the plot weren’t particularly funny, the jokes about the many gruesome deaths one could face were kind of funny but also very violent, but there were some random jokes (including a few great cameos) and surprisingly subtle digs at religion that were quite funny. Overall, I found the film less funny than “Ted” but the romance plot was more enjoyable than “Ted”’s romantic comedy storyline.

Charlize Theron plays Anna an unfortunately married but an assuredly independent woman who can shoot guns and ride horses and keep up with Albert’s witty self-deprecation. She’s a surprisingly enjoyable heroine and love interest. Other scene stealers include Neil Patrick Harris as a moustachioed Moustachery owner and Giovanni Ribisi as the virgin boyfriend of a prostitute. I think that sentence accurately describes the typical humour one could expect from “A Million Ways to Die in the West”.

Similar Titles:

Neighbors (2014) -Frat boys don’t up the ante of outrageous comedy but find an enjoyable middle ground.

Ted (2012) - Offensive, wrong and childish, “Ted” is hilarious and then it becomes a Hollywood rom-com.