Thursday, 29 May 2014

A Million Ways to Die in the West: Movie Review

A Million Ways to Die in the West: Movie Review

Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Sarah Silverman, Neil Patrick Harris
Director: Seth MacFarlane

Love him or loathe him, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane returns to the big screen after the mammoth success of Ted.

In this latest, set in the wild west of Arizona back in 1882, MacFarlane plays Albert, a sheep shearer in a small township. When he's dumped by his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried), Albert's planning on leaving town. However, as he's about to do so, he meets Anna (Charlize Theron) and falls for her.

Discovering his courage, Albert faces the ultimate test as he tries to win Louise back from the moustachioed Foy (Neil Patrick Harris) as well as dealing with Anna's evil gunslinger husband Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), the notorious outlaw who rides into town looking for vengeance.

A Million Ways To Die In the West is a massive comedy misfire for MacFarlane.

Over its bloated two hour run time, there aren't enough jokes to sustain it and the ones which are proffered forth are simply obscene and not remotely funny. Granted, MacFarlane's not known for high-brow humour but his reliance here on poop gags appeals only to the lowest common denominator and betrays some of the sophisticated smarts on display at times in some of his other work.

While the premise is a novel one - life in the Wild West really did suck, folks - the execution of this movie relies simply on a torrent of crudity to try and hit the mark. Attempts at Family Guy style random moments fall flatter than ever - apart from one inspired Back To The Future gag - with toilet gags being the over-used punchline to so many moments.

It's a real shame because Theron is eminently watchable in this as Anna, the maligned gunslinger's wife who just wants a nice guy; and there are moments when MacFarlane's almost everyman Albert has a solid appeal. But everyone else is a simply written parody - from Neil Patrick Harris' slightly OTT bad guy, who actually has a moustache to twirl, Seyfried's underused ex who hints at bitchiness toward Anna to Silverman's increasingly irritating prostitute who's saving herself for her boyfriend but is happy to earn a crust screwing around, there's just not enough to stop this tumbleweed from blowing on through.

While the opening appears to channel Bonanza as the camera swoops through Monument Valley and MacFarlane and his writing team have some differing insights into the horror of living in the Wild West that's been so romanticised through the years on the big screen, there's nothing original and new on offer for most of this flat western.

Low brow and hitting low hanging fruit may be MacFarlane's usual MO, but Ted showed the guy could deliver a story with some heart; all of that is laid to rest by A Million Ways To Die In The West's deliciously wasted comic promise.

Quite simply, A Million Ways To Die In The West wouldn't stand a chance if it came to a shoot-out.


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