Review: A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

A Million Attempts at Comedy in the West

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Heather Nichols is a treasured contributor at the Tawfik Zone

Considering the hilarity and financial success of Ted, expectations for Seth MacFarlane’s latest comedy were high. However, West leaves a lot to be desired. Despite an all-star cast, a peppering of clever jokes and cameo appearances this was not the big laugh out loud comedy I was expecting to see out of MacFarlane. I debated long and hard as to what went wrong. It’s not a bad film. On the contrary it’s a delightful story that should have hit all the beats and yet when it is all said and done something just didn’t sit right.

Then it hit me. Similar to one of the major flaws in the fourth installment of Pirates of the Caribbean it had a serious miscasting in one of the lead roles. Casting MacFarlane as the hero is the biggest part of the film that doesn’t fit right into place. I’d still give the film a 3/5 (actually for this one I’d even say a 6.5/10 to change the scale up) but it was just not all that I was hoping for.

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The story follows Albert (MacFarlane), a cowardly sheep farmer who is dumped by his girlfriend played by Amanda Seyfried for not being manly enough after talking his way out of a shoot-out. The issue with Albert’s character is we are supposed to believe he is a giant coward who needs to prove himself for the girl. That is why MacFarlane is terrible in this role.

The man exudes over-confidence and after playing a wise-cracking teddy bear, a sophisticated dog and a baby plotting the death of his mother… this just comes out of left field. I’m all for actors playing against type-casting but Albert’s character is written wrong. When he shows up for the duel, he makes a joke with the character’s shadows, emulating fillatio, that seems way too (pardon the expression) ballsy for s guy who is supposed to be a wimp.

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He is written more like one of those stuck-up cocky kids in a high school movie who can’t figure out he’s being too much of a douche for a girl to like him. With Gene Wilder’s character in Blazing Saddles, the humor is more subtle in regards to the “issues with his trigger hand.” It all comes down to believability of the character. Had MacFarlane been a supporting character like Giovanni Ribisi’s or the new jerk boyfriend like Neil Patrick Harris’ character, the dialogue probably would have fit better. He is too cocky for his own good to be the lead in a comedic western where the main character’s issue is that he is cowardly.

On the flip-side, Charlize Theron brought something special to the film and it may be one of her better roles in the past couple of years. (I’m sorry but the whole not figuring out that she would get crushed if she continued to run in a straight line in Prometheus is just bothersome not to mention a particularly low career point for Theron). Surprisingly she brings a really great character to the screen that embodies a pro-feminist ideal which is seldom seen in this genre. The way she carries herself and is not automatically smitten with the hero is a nice change of pace. She is the one who teaches him how to shoot and how to really, “be a man.” Yes she does eventually fall for him and briefly ends up as a damsel in distress but ultimately I think she’s promoting a positive message with her character.

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If you thought the trailer for this film was funny, I hate to say they crammed most of the jokes into it. There are a few more dick jokes but in terms of the big comedic moments, they showed a little too much which is always an issue with advertising comedies. Subtlety is usually best but this film doesn’t go that route. One of the bigger comedic instances is in the use of various cameos which I will not ruin for you, just stay until the end of the credits because there’s a good one. Overall it was not my favorite film this year but if you are a fan of MacFarlane’s work and want to support an original idea so we get more of them, go see this film. If not, wait to Redbox this one.

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About Heather Nichols

Heather is an all-around entertainment buff (with the exception of male-dominated Westerns), though she has a special affinity and encyclopedic knowledge of all things Japanese: J-Horror, Anime, Manga, and above all Miyazaki films.

2 thoughts on “Review: A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

  1. Candace

    Well, that’s what I was afraid of, that the trailer had all the good stuff in it. I am so tired of that.
    Thanks for this review, Heather. Yes, I also noted that the Prometheus character (Theron) had suddenly taken a stupid pill which got her killed, but I think blame can be laid at Ridley Scott’s feet for that, but I digress. I’m glad she’s back in the saddle again, so to speak, with a different type role.

    I will probably check this out at some point (even if it’s just the “dollar theatre” as my Inner Child likes a comedy with a killer fart scene (metaphorically as well as literally) as much as any sixth grader out there. Plus I really enjoy Giovanni Ribisi’s work. Alas, I don’t care for Sarah Silverman. I mean, at all. I think her shtick is the same as a lot of comedians now.
    Well written, as always! A pleasure to read these reviews. Thanks so much.

  2. Pingback: Ted 2 Review: Thunder buddies strike lightning twice |

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