Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A Million Ways To Die In The West (2014)

I quite like Seth MacFarlane, despite the fact that he often sets off my Spidey-sense when he delivers gags that feel more mean-spirited than actually funny. Ted was a lot of fun, but a lot of good work,and goodwill, was undone by MacFarlane's stint hosting the 2013 Academy Awards. He just didn't seem as funny when not hidden behind a character.

The premise is standard stuff. MacFarlane plays Albert, a peace-loving sheep farmer living in the wild west. He doesn't really fit in there, due to his lack of courage and the fact that he's never fired a gun, but he's happy enough with his lady, Louise (Amanda Seyfried). Until Louise ditches him, claiming that she needs time to herself before quickly latching on to the dapper Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). Just when he's at a real low point, Albert meets the lovely Anna (Charlize Theron), a woman who decides to help him grow a spine and perhaps even win back the love of his life. Unfortunately, Albert and Anna grow close, which causes some serious friction when her husband, the outlaw known as Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), arrives in town.

Let's get straight to the point here, the biggest problem with A Million Ways To Die In The West is Seth MacFarlane. He directed the film, he co-wrote the script (with Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild), and he stars in the lead role. Despite weakness in all three areas, it's probably his attempt to be a leading man that drags the film down the most. He's just not a likable enough onscreen presence to hold together a movie. When not delivered from behind an animated curtain,  the gags and dialogue just come across as smug and obvious.

The rest of the cast try their best, with Theron particularly enjoyable for every moment that she's onscreen. Seyfried and Harris are fun, and Neeson does okay, but isn't given enough screentime to make a better villain. Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman are a loving couple, despite the fact that the latter works every day as a prostitute while convincing her man that they should both save their own sexual activity for when they get married. There are also some great cameos, with one being SO good that it almost made me want to give the movie a bonus point, but to name names would spoil the surprises.

But the cast can only take you so far. At just under two hours, A Million Ways To Die In The West is far too long and far too misguided in attempts to wring humour from the scenario. Oh, if people think that seeing a sheep's penis in detail before it urinates on someone is funny then they will enjoy themselves. Similarly, anyone wanting to see a hat pretending to be filled with liquid excrement might chuckle, but someone hoping to see the unnecessary shot of the hat being knocked so that the liquid excrement starts to spill out onto the ground will find that this is their dream movie. Oh yes, those "gags" are in the movie. Thankfully, a lot of the other gags are better, but not by much.

There's some nice cinematography, and the kind of rousing score that you'd expect from a Western, but those are the only two elements that MacFarlane gets right. There's no love here for the movies, and certainly little attempt to twist the tropes of the genre (other than the obvious High Noon stuff). And, worst of all, the whole thing constantly feels just like a movie. It's self-conscious at almost every turn, but also self-satisfied, which makes it feel lazy and irritating.

Feel free to disbelieve me and check it out for yourself, but this is yet another film that packs most of the best bits into the trailer (and at least one gag that wasn't present, which I'm sure will be shoehorned into the "unrated, even ruder, even more dangerous" extended version that will hit shiny disc). It's not really worth your time or money.


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