A Million Ways to Die in the West (Universal Pictures, R)

film million-ways-to-die smThe humor is hit or miss, and majorly crude and racist in nature—not that I expected anything less from the creator of Family Guy.

 

 

film million-ways-to-die

If you have ever sat through a stand-up comedy show, you’ve watched something similar to A Million Ways to Die in the West. The opening wisecracks elicited sympathetic laughs from the audience who really seemed to want what they were watching to be funny, but like stand-up—if you’re lucky—the comedian eventually finds his or her groove and captures the full attention of the crowd. Lucky for A Million Ways to Die in the West’s director, writer, and main actor Seth MacFarlane, the film manages to win over its audience much more quickly and effectively than his previous live-action undertaking, Ted.

A Million Ways to Die takes place in 1882 Arizona. MacFarlane plays Albert Stark, who jests that this is a despicable time period to grow up in because there are so many ways to die, whether your life is taken on a trip to the outhouse or by a “disease of the month,” like cholera. Albert is a poor sheep farmer who is dumped by girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) within the first 10 minutes of the film. Other than his sense of humor and self-acclaimed selfless disposition, Albert does not seem to have anything going for him, and with Louise gone, there is little stopping him from making a move farther west. But then the mysterious and beautiful Anna (Charlize Theron) comes into the picture.

Louise quickly starts dating Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), a wealthy gentleman who works at the Mustachery. Anna quickly has a fondness for Albert, who, unlike her outlaw husband Clinch (Liam Neeson), is very sweet. It’s important to note that she makes no mention of Clinch to Albert. Anna begins to help Albert in his quest to win Louise back, which culminates in a gun standoff with Foy. Anna is an effortless shot, so she takes Albert under her wing to prepare him for the fight. He is completely oblivious to the fact that he’s spending time with the wife of the West’s most feared outlaw, which inevitably causes him trouble in the last quarter of the film.

It’s a surprisingly compelling romantic comedy, but what really makes A Million Ways to Die worth seeing is its celebrity-packed cast, all of who give excellent performances. Sarah Silverman and Giovanni Ribisi play Albert’s friends, Ruth and Edward. These two were easily my favorite characters in the film because of their outrageous and hilarious dynamic. To give you an idea, Ruth is a prostitute with a high-pitched voice and childlike disposition (strangely, the most adorable persona I’ve ever seen Silverman in), yet she wants to save herself for marriage because she and boyfriend Edward are Christians. Family Guy’s Alex Borstein makes an appearance as the bartender, and there are a few more surprise cameos in there, as well. Harris, Theron, and Neeson fit surprisingly well into the Western motif, and if you are a fan of Harris in How I Met Your Mother, you’ll find his character here isn’t all that dissimilar.

There is definitely comedy here that will stick and be referenced afterward, whether “don’t drunk horse” or the continual commentary on how no one ever smiled in photographs in 1882. Overall, though, the humor in this film is hit or miss, and majorly crude and racist in nature—not that I expected anything less from the creator of Family Guy. | Megan Washausen

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