After seeing the trailers for Seth MacFarlane’s latest comedy, A Million Ways to Die in the West, it just didn’t look like it would be any good. Branden put it in his honorable mentions section of the Summer Movie Preview, which shocked me because the previews weren’t funny. Well, the red band trailer may have had a few chuckles in it. As it turns out, I won tickets to an advance screening, so I couldn’t turn it down.
Albert (MacFarlane) is a simple sheep farmer. After backing out of a duel, his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) dumps him and moves right into the arms of the rich and mustached Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). The next week, he meets Anna (Charlize Theron), a new girl in town with a secret that they reveal to the audience right away, and they fall for each other as she trains Albert to duel Foy.
A Million Ways to Die in the West has an all-star cast. Aside from those mentioned above, we also get Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, and Sarah Silverman. We get some great comedians, and some award-winning actors, and every single person is wasted. Neil Patrick Harris, who is basically playing Barney from How I Met Your Mother, but with a slightly evil twist, may be the only exception. Everyone else is so lifeless in their roles that it’s seriously as if they are intentionally saying the dialogue in the most uninterested voices they could muster.
I place all the blame on Seth MacFarlane, as he directs, produces, co-writes, and also stars in the film. He is not an actor, and many scenes have him staring at the camera when he shouldn’t be. That’s the number one rule: never look at the camera unless you’re aiming to break the fourth wall.
There’s a quick and easy way to tell if this movie will make you laugh, and I’ll be honest, I laughed a number of times. There are a couple solid lines, one delivered by Silverman’s character early on involving what she wants on her face from a dirty cowboy. That’s the type of humor we get, though. Does poop make you laugh? How about farts? There’s a good fart joke from Albert as well. Most of the laughs actually come in the first thirty minutes, and then the film nosedives into rom-com territory. There are a few interesting scenes in the last act that I won’t spoil, but do have the potential to gross the viewer out.
The sad truth is that A Million Ways to Die in the West doesn’t know what it wants to be. There are a few nods to films like Back to the Future and Django Unchained, which were excellent, but seemed to fall flat with the audience. In fact, aside from one girl in the theatre who thought everything was funny, the crowd seemed really disinterested in the film. With a runtime of almost two hours – and boy does it feel like two hours – I can’t help but wonder why this film wasn’t edited down. A lot of scenes could have been cut down to speed up the pace of the film, and the audience wouldn’t have missed any of it. It’s worth noting that Million Ways really tries to offer up a lot of deaths, and they are fairly varied, if not just absurdly random.
A friend of mine who works in the movie business once told me, “if a film gets a sneak preview showing, it’s a terrible film that the studio is trying to save with word of mouth”. To my recent knowledge, I know of two other films to receive advance screenings. Both were comedies, and while neither was good, one did make its money back, hand over fist (Neighbors). I actually brought a friend along for this showing, and he enjoys Family Guy and thought Ted was a decent flick. He disliked A Million Ways to Die in the West more than I did. So much is wrong with Million Ways that it’s hard to even piece together where it all falls apart. It’s like a bad dream after a night of shots and cheap Mexican food.
A Million Ways to Die in the West isn’t a good film. It is flawed in every aspect of its existence, but yet the little boy in me laughed a few too many times to truly hate it.