A Million Ways to Die in the West (R)

6 Stars

Why get your hopes up?

It won’t help.

A Million Ways to Die in the West contains several genuine laughs and a number of chuckles. Don’t sully them with high expectations.

Have you seen the trailer? Hence the anticipation.

The preview spoils the majority of jokes, reveals and cameos. Wait a year before renting.

This is the type of comedy where, if you’re viewing with only a vague recollection of my dissatisfaction, there’s a shot at enjoyment.

John DeFore, a writer for Huff Po, suggests a, “mid-film cameo prompts viewers to wonder how MacFarlane might have fared playing a time-traveler from our era stranded in the Old West. Instead, his 1880s sheep farmer Albert Stark simply talks like someone born in and transplanted from the 20th century.”

DeFore’s analysis couldn’t be more accurate.

Albert feels like a stand-up comedian; a prisoner in the Old West who attempts to gain freedom through wacky frontier material.

The problem isn’t a fun topic for discussion, because Seth MacFarlane deserves our respect.

Celebrities only have nice things to say about him. He’s one of the greatest contributors to contemporary comedy, offering quality on both the small screen (The Family Guy) and in the box office (Ted). As host of the 2013 Oscars, he delivered a bang-up performance.

Therefore, it’s unpleasant mentioning the weakness of his performance, and how it detracts from the film overall.

For whatever reason, his acting isn’t up to snuff.

Harping on it won’t do any good. Chalk up the loss to over-ambition.

A $40 million budget isn’t enormous for this type of production. And Seth’s trying to write, direct and star in the biggest comedic western since Blazing Saddles. That includes flying the ensemble cast/production crew, building sets and shooting on location, while using horses, dancers and maybe guns (plus all the necessary advisors/extras.)

Fun fact: Liam Neeson’s the only cast member who rode horseback across the tarmac, up the steps and onto a private, horse-bearing jet. Apparently Neeson goes nowhere without his nag.

That’s a joke. But you can see how a budget dries up relatively quick.

By the way, the supporting cast is what makes this movie good. Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman and Amanda Seyfried are great.

Charlize Theron and Neil Patrick Harris are fantastic. Charlize is so impressive; she prevents the movie from becoming a ‘thumbs-down.’

N.P.H. plays a hilarious villain and is such an incredible talent that he manages to cultivate hysteria from an unfunny scatological bit.

Aside from Neil and Charlize, the best part is an original song.

For your convenience it’s posted below. If nothing else, at least give, “If You’ve Only Got a Mustache,” a listen.

All in all, AMWTDITW is not a complete success.

Nor is it a complete disappointment.

Let it simmer on the backburner.

You’ll thank me later.

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