In truth, there aren’t really a million ways to die. Only about a hundred…
|Seth McFarlane as Albert Stark|
|Charlize Theron as Anna Leatherwood|
|Liam Neeson as Clinch Leatherwood|
|Amanda Seyfried as Louise|
|Neil Patrick Harris as Foy|
|with appearances from Dennis Haskins, Doc Brown and the Delorean, Young Obi-Wan Kenobi, Bill Maher, Electro, Van Wilder and Professor X|
As comedies go, A Million Ways to Die in the West follows in the footsteps of that other great wild west movie, Blazing Saddles. It is also tempered with lots of pop culture references, crude and racist humour along with a great cast and guest appearances.
We begin with Albert of the House Stark, a pacifist sheep farmer in the wild west, who is in trouble with a neighbouring landowner whose land has been ruined by Stark’s sheep. After diffusing the situation where a gun fight appeared likely, the two agree that monetary compensation is sufficient and they go their separate ways.
Unfortunately, that’s the beginning of the real trouble for our hero Albert. His girlfriend, Louise is…not a very nice person and breaks up with him because he backed out of the gun fight. Albert spends the next week moping about town with his best friends, until he rescues Anna Leatherwood, who happens to be the wife of a notorious criminal, from a bar fight.
In the meantime, Louise has shacked up with Foy, the local specialist in moustache accessories, who also possesses one of the most awesome moustaches ever to grace a wild west comedy. Foy is played by the always funny Neil Patrick Harris, who, I’m sure loves hamming it up in over the top roles like this, just like in the Harold and Kumar series. Albert is determined to win Louise back, but after finding out about Foy, he’s so incensed he accidentally challenges him to a gun fight during the local town festival. Anna, feeling sorry for the nice, yet incompetent Albert proceeds to help him learn how to shoot, and basically how to be a manly man. This forms the crux of their relationship and the main plot of the story.
As with any production involving Seth McFarlane, who is most famously responsible for Family Guy, the comedy is offbeat, over the top, sometimes random and possibly even pushes the boundaries of good taste. Still, if you’re a good sport, you will not take offence at any of the jokes and just roll with it. Certainly, other comedies have pushed the boundaries of good taste in the past, and not many people complained about those.
As for the performances from the cast, I wonder if some of them were…overqualified for their roles? Certainly, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried and Charlize Theron never seemed to be stretched by their roles, but at least they seemed to have fun making the movie. The jokes are a bit hit and miss, through a combination of earnest seriousness from Albert and his friends, through to some sight gags, random cameos and events, as well as lost in translation moments like “Mila Kunis” meaning thank you in American Indian.
A Million Ways to Die is definitely laugh out loud, especially towards the end. The cast looks like they loved making the movie, put in enthusiastic performances, though it can feel like they’re not really trying too hard. The comic timing is actually pretty good, but there is no joke in the movie that you’d take away and laugh about for ages, like some of those in American Pie, which have entered into the vernacular. It’s still a decent funny movie, just kind of forgettable.
Live action Family Guy with better cast. Missing Seth Green though…
Should I watch this?
It’s not a revelation in any sense, and if you’re familiar with Seth McFarlane’s work, you’ll appreciate the humour in the movie. In summary: funny, and makes you happy, but you’ll go home, wake up and remember that you liked American Pie more.