It can probably be said that A Million Ways to Die in the West is the first and only film where my primary complaint is too many shots of sheep penises (i.e. more than zero). Such are the breaks when viewing a Seth MacFarlane film. He has chosen to follow up his hit 2012 comedy, Ted, with an enjoyable send-up of the western genre that is heavy on toilet humor and equal opportunity offending. MacFarlane’s brand of comedy is one you likely love or hate, and it’s very safe to say that if you love it you’ll be highly entertained by A Million Ways to Die in the West.
MacFarlane plays Albert, a wimpy sheep farmer who’s acutely aware of the crappy time in which he’s living. People are lucky to make it to age thirty-five and can be/are killed in a multitude of gruesome fashions. He’s about ready to pack up and leave for California when Anna (Theron), a mysterious beauty whose husband (Neeson) is the most feared gunman in the territory, shows up to teach him the ways of the frontier. The two form an unlikely partnership whilst trying to survive the unforgiving landscape and time in which they exist.
A Million Ways to Die in the West, in its most simplistic form, is a pretty effective roast of Old West cliches and western films in general. The script throws hundreds of jokes at the screen and the majority stick, thanks to MacFarlane’s biting sense of humor and energetic delivery. The movie’s big laughs are front-loaded as the second half slows down to spend more time on Albert and Anna’s relationship. The supporting cast is excellent, led by a hilarious Sarah Silverman as the town prostitute that will have sex with everyone except her boyfriend (Ribisi). He has to wait until they’re married. Theron turns in a laid-back, dryly humorous performance as Anna. It’s nice to see her take a break from the serious roles. Liam Neeson and Neil Patrick Harris, as a prissy mustache accessory shop owner, both play off the cliches of their roles nicely.
The film does run long in the tooth at 116 minutes and the trailers have divulged a good number of the best jokes. The potty humor, while sporadically funny, unnecessarily takes over parts of the second half. The aforementioned sheep penises are even covered in visual effects form in one of the craziest drug-induced trip sequences ever put to film. MacFarlane knows his audience and A Million Ways to Die in the West is one of the funniest films of the year – provided you’re a member of his audience.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 116 Minutes
Rating: R for strong crude and sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug material.
Theatrical Release: May 30, 2014
Directed by: Seth MacFarlane
Written by: Seth MacFarlane & Alec Sulkin & Wellesley Wild
Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi