13 June 2014

Capsule Review: A Million Ways to Die in the West (Seth MacFarlane, Universal, 2014)


Grade - C+

Do you find any of the following funny?

  • -          A man soiling a hat
  • -          Hallucinogenic cutaway scenes
  • -          Appropriately placed pop cultural references  
  • -          A man with a flower in his bottom
  • -          Bodily fluid yuks stripped from a Farrelly farce
  • -          Family Guy

If you answered yes to more than one of these, you might get something out of Seth MacFarlane’s sophomore feature “A Million Ways to Die in the West”.

Cut in the mould of “Blazing Saddles” but never finding the same level of finesse or invention, MacFarlane’s lampoon is fitfully amusing despite its vast length and scattershot screenplay. Taking aim at the utter hellishness of the Old West, MacFarlane assumes advantage of the gorgeous scenery and outrageous violence of the period, but his character work and editorial instincts often fail him. There are laughs, many of which stem from the sort of lowbrow depravity associated with the MacFarlane ethos, but there’s also too much flat-footed filler, and none of the narrative facets amount to much. MacFarlane is reasonably likable, but his relationship with Charlize Theron’s mystery outlaw largely incurs yawns, the film unable to develop their dynamic beyond a softly realised fratboy fantasy. The supporting cast range from inspired (Sarah Silverman) to ineffectual (Liam Neeson makes an uncharacteristically forgettable antagonist), and whilst there are a selection of superb sight-gags (juicy cameos and coital preoccupation with a moustache take top billing), poorly formed caricatures and a pervading aura of self-indulgence prevent it from ever striking greatness. “A Million Ways to Die in the West” is a serviceable and often giddy diversion, but one unlikely to capture the public’s imagination a la “Ted”. Uneven seems like an appropriate descriptor.  


Also, I think it’s time we retired the “dweeb tripping” motif from contemporary comedy. Forgive the pun, but it’s burnt out.  

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2014


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