“… just a collection of needlessly raunchy jokes thrown into a western film.”
I am a huge fan of Seth Macfarlane’s work, be it classic Family Guy, new Family Guy (and other television shows), and even his movies; but that doesn’t mean that I like everything that he makes. The latest of his works (that I have seen) is A Million Ways to Die in the West. A Million Ways to Die in the West follows Albert, a sheep farmer who was just dumped by his girlfriend, as he begins to befriend a new girl in town, Anna. Unbeknownst to him, Anna is the wife of infamous outlaw Clinch Leatherwood who is not too happy when he returns to find his wife has been close with another man. I mean, that is the overarching plot, but honestly this movie has a bunch of different story lines happening at the same time.
What sets Family Guy apart from other television shows (for better or worse) is the fact that it uses cutaway gags to illustrate jokes. That means that the writing doesn’t have to lean a certain way for a joke to be made, all that has to happen is a character must say “This reminds of the time when…”. This allows Seth (and other writers) to essentially make any joke they find funny, without being confined to one topic. This form of comedy falls apart when you take away the ability for cutaway gags, much like what happens in A Million Ways to Die in the West. Instead of a joke being set up with a throw away line, we must watch as the movie painfully takes its time to set up jokes that ultimately aren’t worth it. A Million Ways to Die in the West doesn’t play out so much like a movie but rather like a themed stand up comedy act. The characters don’t matter in the slightest because most of the movie is just Seth Macfarlane’s character talking about how shitty the old west is. This gets tiresome because it is almost like a bait and switch. The film was marketed as a western-comedy, for that to be done well (see Blazing Saddles) you need to commit to the genre (western), and then add the comedy. A Million Ways to Die in the West would have been just as funny if it were set in modern day New York, and the entire premise of the film was that a failed comedian is trying to get his western act off of the ground. To make this worse, not all jokes are even period accurate. This only amplifies the feeling that A Million Ways to Die in the West is just a collection of needlessly raunchy jokes thrown into a western film. It also sucks to watch all of these jokes play out, and have the fucking characters laugh at them. I felt that we were past the need for laugh tracks, but I suppose Seth Macfarlane feels differently. And the film also tried to play off several celebrity cameos as jokes as well. Maybe it is just me, but a celebrity being in a movie just isn’t funny. It is truly unfortunate that A Million Ways to Die in the West tried so hard to be a comedy, because even though it failed at that it succeeded at being a western. First and foremost, the music in A Million Ways to Die in the West was great. Anyone who has watched other Seth Macfarlane works would know of his affinity for orchestral music, and this fits beautifully with the feel of this film. The camerawork was also something to behold, because it really took chances. Instead of focusing on normal angles, and still shots, the movie embraced the sweeping landscapes and really made sure that the camera was able to dance around the subject making the world feel real. The scenery in A Million Ways to die in the West was also pretty great. Although most of the time it was obvious that the actors were sitting in a soundstage, the outdoor shots were beautiful. And the obvious soundstage thing didn’t bother me too much, seeing as it is almost a callback to old western films.
Ultimately A Million Ways to Die in the West is a boring film with extremely raunchy jokes. It goes out of it’s way to try and make you laugh, but can’t help but fall flat on it’s face every time.
I give A Million Ways to Die in the West a C