Seth MacFarlane had already made a name for himself with his raunchy cartoon hits “Family Guy”, “American Dad” and to a lesser extent “The Cleveland Show.” But impossible as it sounds he created an even larger smash hit in the form of his first live action film debut: “Ted.” Success gave MacFarlane the financial means to extend his creative comedy into another movie that was written, directed, produced and stars him (not as a CGI teddy bear this time) in “A Million ways to die in the west.” This is a comedy western that intentionally funny, unlike Will Smith’s unintentionally hilarious western “Wild Wild West.”
Our story takes us to the miserable Western era in the 1880’s, where Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane); a lowly sheep farmer finds himself in a dismal-death-centered obsession after his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) dumps him for the moustached likes of Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). Things get simultaneously better and worse for Albert when a mysterious woman (Charlize Theron) comes to help him out, while her vicious outlaw husband (Liam Neeson) wants to help the both of them become very dead for crossing his path. I personally cannot stand western films; I find them to be ungodly boring and it’s only the fact this is a ridiculously raunchy comedy that wild western film caught my eye…that and Seth MacFarlane’s behind it.
“A Million ways” assembles a talented and comical cast of interesting actors that sell the film far more effectively than the plot ever will. Anyone coming to see a movie by the same guy who made Peter Griffin and a fowl mouthed stuffed bear should expect the same kind of vulgarity and immature humor those two characters are known for. This is a very crude movie, it’s hilarious guilty pleasure gold but it is still a very crude movie at its core. There are times the jokes are so crass they crack you up without even thinking about it; even those revolted by this brand of humor cannot help but crack a smile or giggle at even the most baseless punchlines.
Other times however, the movie admittedly feels like someone from Jackass wrote for the movie and thinks any kind of joke relating to racism or private body parts is funny as Hell. Anything realistically resembling an actual western movie is dashed within the first 10 minutes of the film. In fact, MacFarlane’s constant theme of how much the west sucks and everything around you wants to or WILL kill you is probably what the average person (educated or not) thinks about whenever they think of the time of cowboys and quick draw pistols. While Macfarlane alone is decent as a lead and a funny man, it’s actually the comedic chemistry between the film’s cast that really keeps things lively from start to finish.
The most amusingly adorable and odd pairing definitely goes to Giovanni Ribisi’s virgin heavy Edward and Sarah Silverman’s prostitute Ruth. These two balanced their odd personalities and styles of humor nicely together, I actually wanted to see them become a real life couple after this; odd as that may sound. Charlize Theron needs to do comedy more often…MUCH more often; she has a hidden knack for it that works wonderfully on screen. Liam Neeson is always enjoyable, though sadly; his gun toting character wasn’t as fun loaded as his past few roles have been (The Lego Movie and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues).
Overall, “A Million Ways to Die in the West” tries a million ways to make you laugh but all delivered on the same goofy, grade school intellect level you expect from the guy who laughs whenever he uses the mustard container and it makes a fart like sound. MacFarlane does not have another “Ted” here; not by a long shot. What MacFarlane does have is a genuinely grand guilty pleasure of a movie that rolls proudly in its own filth and fun, much to my amusement. The cast and director know exactly what they think is funny and for majority of the movie, you’ll be hard pressed to disagree with them. It’s not for everyone; nor should it be but…if you have a single funny bone in your body then you’ll definitely find some charm and chuckles in this dirty western.
I give “A Million Ways to Die in the West” 2 stars and a half out of 4.