Director: Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, and Liam Neeson
Review Written By: Michael Dalton (Prime Minister)
Seth MacFarlane plays Albert, a struggling sheep farmer who is dumped by his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) after refusing to take part in a gunfight. When she finds a new mustached man (Neil Patrick Harris) Albert enlists the help of a mysterious new addition to the town, Anna (Charlize Theron), to help him win back Louise. However it may ultimately be Anna's dark past in the form of Liam Neeson's gunslinger which will put Albert's newfound skills to the test.
The opening shot of this film is breathtaking, the entire opening sequence in fact. The camera elegantly swoops over the Western landscapes, with Joel McNeely's wonderful score accompanying it. Given the nature of this film and the nature of its reception, it is easy to overlook and ignore what is in fact one of the finest original scores of the year. It is clear from this opening that MacFarlane has an affinity for the genre he is operating within here. And it is this passion for and knowledge of the genre, which shines through every frame, even when the comedic material seems straight out of modern times. This film is the work of a much more confident and daring director than Ted. Some have labeled this indulgence and it is, however this is a grander and more ambitious film than Ted and whilst sometimes it suffers as a result, it makes it a better film.
Where I’d agree indulgence does come through is in this film’s running time. The film very much builds up towards a certain event, only for it to seemingly endlessly continue after what we had been programmed to believe was the climax. At a near two hours it is certainly a film that could have been more ruthless in the editing room, especially as a lot of the material is repeated. This is a film which is already at a stretch with its material at ninety minutes, taking it all the way to two hours certainly doesn’t do the film any favours. What many have understandably taken issue with however is the crudeness of a lot of the comedy. And yes, A Million Ways to Die in the West is at times very rude and very silly. However more times than not, it had me laughing and when it comes to a comedy that is the most important thing. More significant however, is that this film had me engaged and enjoying it even when the laughs were not coming.
The relationship that builds between Seth MacFarlane and Charlize Theron is very well played between the two actors involved. With Charlize Theron in particular showing what a good actress she is as she makes the most out of a character that could have been quite bland in other hands. Seth MacFarlane makes his acting debut here (Only adding fuel to the fire in regards to claims of self-indulgence) and he is not terrible, mainly because he is essentially playing Seth MacFarlane. It will be interesting to see how his acting career develops should he continue to pursue it, however I feel that his strengths lay behind the camera until he is willing to tackle a performance that would truly test and challenge him.
Liam Neeson is rather wasted in his supporting role as his villain very much occupies a lot of the film’s more straight-faced moments. The highlights of the supporting cast are undoubtedly Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, and Neil Patrick Harris. Ribisi and Silverman’s relationship, which centers on a prostitute who wants to save herself for marriage is one of the film’s funnier recurring jokes. Whilst the moustache wearing Neil Patrick Harris steals every scene he is in, and the ‘If You Only Had a Moustache’ song, along with ‘Everything is Awesome’ from the Lego Movie, ought to be a contender for the Original Song Oscar.
Overall A Million Ways to Die in the West is ill disciplined, it is too long and its humour isn’t always the classiest or cleverest. However it is a film that had me laughing hard, laughing frequently, and still laughing when I recall jokes from it. It has ambition, it was a proper Western, I liked how bizarre it got at times, and it has some of the most inspired cameos I’ve ever seen.