Film Review: A Million Ways to Die in the West

Written by Laura Dengrove

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A Million Ways to Die in the West felt more like a million ways to kill a joke.

Seth MacFarlane’s new film Western comedy doesn’t exactly scream hilarious, like Ted did a few years back, but it does scream a good time if you don’t take it too seriously.

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The film takes place in, you guessed it the Wild West, where apparently everything is out to kill you, as the title of the film suggests. This includes rattlesnakes, outlaws, disease, huge blocks of ice and well, basically everything. The films protagonist Albert, played by a not-so confident MacFarlane, must push through these deadly obstacles to survive the rough and tough West, while trying to win back his ladylove Louise (Amanda Seyfreid) with help from the new girl in town Anna (Charlize Theron).

While there are a few superb performances (more on that later) and some perfect cameos, the movie suffers from an overstuffed run time, poor performances from key characters and writing that is at times tedious and comedic moments that fall flat of their intended hilarity.

The huge positive of this movie are the performances of Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, and Charlize Theron. All appeared to be having a blast with their parts which really comes through on screen. All three are hilarious in their roles, but it’s Theron who is particularly impressive. She plays her role with ease and great comedic timing. Her performance alone is reason to see the movie.

The cameos, as we mentioned, were amazing and hysterical, and without spoiling anything, you will be pleasantly surprised with some of these guest spots. Hint: if you are a Quentin Tarantino fan, one cameo in particular at the end will get you laughing and cheering up a storm.

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However, the movie does have some major flaws.

To begin with, the writing wasn’t very focused. A number of the jokes throughout the film are overdone or just plain stupid. We get it, vagina jokes are funny and everything in the West wants to kill you, but do you have to remind us that every other second? Plus, scenes and storylines were just dragged out way too long. Even though the film was only two hours long, why did it seem like it was four hours? MacFarlane is a busy guy, but the writing should have been better and more tightly edited.

Another huge flaw in the movie were the performances of Neil Patrick Harris and MacFarlane. Harris’ character was unnecessary and they gave him way too many lines and bad jokes. Harris is an amazing theatrical star, but for some reason, he doesn’t translate well to the big screen (at least in this film). MacFarlane on the other hand had great lines and jokes, but my God was his acting bad. Okay, maybe that was too harsh. He wasn’t terrible, in fact in some scenes he was actually really good in particular the scene where he lists the ways people can die in the West. However, there’s this weird thing he does where you can see he was laughing with his eyes, (trust me you will notice it) but these are not in scenes where his character should be laughing. It’s distracting, especially in scenes where Neeson and Theron were with him. Again, he appeared to be having a blast, just like the other actors, but for some reason it just doesn’t help his performance. This was MacFarlane’s first big role on the onscreen and it seems like he’s not comfortable taking on a huge role like this. Maybe he should’ve taken on a supporting role?

All in all, A Million Ways to Die in The West wasn’t a bad film. No, I laughed, a lot, but that didn’t make up for the boredom that slowly creeps upon you as the film goes on. MacFarlane made dying in the West seem fun, but only for a fleeting moment.

Related Articles:

Review: Ted (Daniel Cohen)

Hello!
My name is Laura Dengrove. I am currently a Junior at Rutgers University, double majoring in Journalism/Media Studies and Cinema Studies. I am a film critic and interviewer by choice, professional Linda Belcher impersonator by birth.

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