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“A Million Ways to Die in the West” – Early Review (SO-SO POSITIVE)

May 29, 2014

Screen shot 2014-05-29 at 8.05.37 PMMany are under the impression that “A Million Ways to Die in the West” is trying to be the new “Blazing Saddles” for today’s generation, far from it; it’s nowhere near (thank god) the genius behind Mel Brooks’ classic western spoof. Seth MacFarlane, rather than going the full mile that the movie should’ve been, he replaces his brand of “Family Guy” spoof/satire and instead plays the movie fairly straight. The film is riddled with self-aware style humor, focusing on the gimmicks and lifestyle choices of the old frontier itself.

Does it work? Sometimes, but unfortunately the movie falls short on what it could’ve been. Having said that, there is enough physical comedy hijinks, with the help of the films two charming leads, save the movie from becoming a total failure.

Albert Stark (MacFarlane) is a wimpy sheep farmer, not to mention a bad sheep farmer. Always getting into trouble with the locals, Albert somehow manages to talk his way out of confrontation rather than facing it. Then, a beautiful stranger arrives into Albert’s life, Anna (Charlize Theron), a fast-talking, gun slinging gal, who shares the same distain outlook on the west as much as Albert does. Anna volunteers to shape Albert into a better man, to help him prove to his big-eyed ex-girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried), that he is a tough man, and is willing to stand up for himself.

Honestly, the strength of this film doesn’t come from the physical comedy, though you’d think that would be critical in a film like this, it’s actually the relationship between Albert & Anna. Of all the characters in the film, they have the best dynamic, the best chemistry, and the best riffing. Sure, Giovanni Ribsi & Sarah Silverman have a good time stealing scenes as the boyfriend-girlfriend couple, who’re ‘saving themselves’ for marriage, meanwhile Silverman’s character works her days as a hooker (yeah, funny), but, MacFarlane, having a total hard on for anything 80s pop culture, plays these characters out as if they are from films like “Say Anything…” or “Fast Times At Ridgemont High”.

Screen shot 2014-05-29 at 8.05.57 PMThis is however a Seth MacFarlane joint, naturally some crude humor is going to take place. However, what would normally work on a Fox adult cartoon series, may not translate so well in live action. One visual gag in particular that’s going to strike a cord with most folks is the theme of a particular shooting gallery set during the ‘fair scene’. Thank goodness for a certain western cameo showing up at the end of the film (and tail end of the end credits) to save face from that…thing. The humor for the most part isn’t as low brow as one might expect; there’s some sheep dick, and massive diarrhea, but as a whole the movie is quite tamed, even for Seth MacFarlane.

It’s not quite a mixed bag, there’s more good than bad, it’s a bit underwhelming when Liam Neeson, playing the bad guy, has barely anything to do…besides having a daisy flower poke out of his asshole. Fear not folks, NPH saves the day with vibrant comedic timing, one moment in the film that will be leaving people screaming in horror and a dash of humor features the NPH trooper himself; you’ll never look at cowboy hats the same way again, I promise you that.


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