A Million Ways To Die In The West (2014)

A Million Ways To Die In The West (2014)

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Healthcare was primitive in them thar days.
Healthcare was primitive in them thar days.

Twitter Plot Summary: The many ways you can die in the Wild West, as interpreted by Seth MacFarlane. There’s a love story in there too.

Five Point Summary:

1. Sheep. Lots of sheep.
2. Toilet humour #1
3. Great Scott!
4. Toilet humour #365
5. Tarzan Boy!

After the huge success of Ted, hopes were high for the follow-up movie feature from Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane. Family Guy may have lost its way a little in recent years, but Ted seemed to indicate that MacFarlane was more than capable of structuring a live action feature length comedy movie with regular co-writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild. Well hold your horses there slick, because A Million Ways To Die In The West likely won’t entertain you to the same level as MacFarlane’s previous work, which is a real shame.

With an over-reliance on generic toilet humour rather than crafting decent jokes, the genuine laughs are few and far between, and given that they’re spaced out so much, the running time could easily be trimmed by a good 20-25 minutes without damaging the plot. In fact many of the best jokes are call-backs to ones featured in Ted – Giovanni Ribisi dancing, a voiceless cameo being but two of them – which is a sad indication of the quality of this script when compared to Ted. There are a couple of amusing gags throughout, including a fun reference to Back To the Future Part 3, but things soon start to drag and by the 60 minute mark it becomes a tedious crawl towards the end credits. Narratively the structure has logic, but it lacks the escalation and the humour to carry it over the finishing line.

MacFarlane’s character – a man described as being born at the wrong point in history – is fine, but other than a reference to Parkinson’s Disease this is never expanded upon beyond his awareness that the frontier is a nasty place to live. On that note, whilst the film title may suggest there are a million ways to die, we only get to see probably fifty at most. It’s safe to say that interpreting the title literally would require much more than a hundred minutes to portray. His storyline of relationship woes mixed with the perils of the Wild West is a fun one, but lacks that killer punch or vicious snake bite to make it worthwhile.

They were strange times. Strange times...
They were strange times. Strange times…

Liam Neeson has what amounts to an extended cameo, showing up towards the beginning and the end of the story as a narrative device and nothing more. Still, he gets to use his Irish accent which suits the character rather well. On the other hand, naming him Clinch Leatherwood feels like it’s trying too hard to be almost but not quite that of Clint Eastwood. Charlize Theron has fun as the tough love interest, but despite her grizzled demeanour and fighting skills she ends up swooning over nice guy MacFarlane and simply drops into generic love interest territory.

The only song in the film, If You’ve Only Got A Moustache Song, is genuinely good, as is the accompanying choreographed dance routine. Some more song and dance routines along these lines wouldn’t have hurt in the slightest, and would have fit in nicely with the Western tone. Further praise must be thrown liberally towards Neil Patrick Harris, who is clearly having a ball as the moustachioed secondary villain Foy, laughing at his own jokes in a slightly condescending way and stealing every scene he’s in as a result. Sadly there’s not enough of him to make this anything more than a sadly poor attempt at a comedy western, and given the public’s general apathy towards the western genre in recent years, it’s unlikely it will do well at the box office. Even more damning – Blazin’ Saddles this ain’t.

Score: 2/5

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