A Million Ways to Die in the West
by George Wolf
Picture Seth MacFarlane cracking wise as he watches an old western, and you’re probably not far from the inspiration for A Million Ways to Die in the West.
So how well do MacFarlane’s modern comedy cow patties work when dropped into a pasture of Old West cliches?
Pretty dang well, pardner.
MacFarlane, who co-writes and directs, also stars as Albert, a timid sheep farmer who’s brokenhearted over losing Louise (Amanda Seyfried) to the dashing Foy, owner of the town mustache emporium (Neil Patrick Harris).
Things start looking up when Anna (Charlize Theron) rides into town, and as she and Albert get friendly, Anna conveniently forgets to mention she’s already married to Clinch (Liam Neeson), the most feared gunslinger in the land.
With MacFarlane, you pretty much know what’s coming: cutaway gags to reinforce a line, toilet humor, and sex jokes (turned up a notch here by the always-demure Sarah Silverman as a town prostitute). But the film also has good fun with the historical setting, as Albert often reacts to his world like a wiseass who just arrived from the future.
Even so, MacFarlane is wise enough not to resort to outright mockery, always keeping the door cracked open just enough to let some homage shine through.
The chemistry between MacFarlane and Theron helps loads. You saw it when she helped him with a bit during his stint as Oscar host in 2012 and you see it here: they really like each other, and she thinks he’s really funny. Together, they’re a charming pair.
The middle suffers a bit from comedy drought, but the laughs come faster as Albert nears his final showdown with the evil Clinch. Expect a cast more than ready to poke fun at themselves, some very clever songs, a few inspired cameos and two extra scenes after the credits start rolling.
A Million Ways to Die in the West is a big, broad idea that’s thrown on the screen with more frenzy than focus. But will you laugh?