Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Million Ways To Die In The West Review

Frontier Follies Find Fairly Average  Venture

Seth Macfarlane comedy adheres to two different principles; turning the mundane into its most exaggerated form, or taking something zany and bringing it down to Earth. The latter was brought to terrific life in Ted, while the former coheres the humor in A Million Ways To Die In The West. The film takes all the cliches of both western movies and actual frontier life and ratchets them up to their most violent and sexual extremes. For some comedians, this movie would be stepping out of their comfort zones in a big way, while for Macfarlane it feels disappointing he couldn't conjure up something more memorable right on the heels of Ted.

Perhaps one thing that could make the whole adventure better is if Macfarlane wasn't the lead. Now, I'm no hater of his work; I loved Ted, certain episodes of Family Guy and even enjoyed his stint as a host at the Oscars. And honestly, his directing here is solid, especially whenever some of the larger scale action sequences turn up. That being said, he just doesn't have the talent to headline a movie of this caliber, especially when every single other actor in it is actually doing fine work. He definitely has talent as a voice actor, but man, as a lead guy it's just painful, especially since his idea of a joke is just over explaining things. This might have been funny the first time, but man, it just gets stale so fast.

Aside from Seth, the rest of the cast manages to do solid work, especially Charlize Theron whose pretty much the highlight of the entire movie. Her wise-cracking personality has all the vibrant life that Macfarlanes character lacks, making them a nice combo in spite of Macfarlanes lackluster acting capabilities. Neil Patrick Harris charms even when he's acting like a sleazebag, Giovanni Ribisi is inessential but amusing and man am I glad that someone gave Sarah Silverman a major role in a comedy, as her talented comical abilities are put to splendid use here. The only miss in the supporting cast is Amanda Seyfried, who is given nothing notable to do in the movie.

Seyfried isn't the only element that feels a bit slipshod in this picture, as it as a whole feels at least 20 minutes overlong. To boot, some extraneous flashback sequences (despite a killer Gilbert Gottfried cameo) late in the film are obviously just bits from a discarded opening from the movie that the filmmakers just couldn't part with. That's a real shame, as there's some actually good plot material here that, if given a trim in some places, could have been a humorous exaggeration of western society. The unfocused approach to the story also applies to the laughs; the film as a whole can never seem to understand whether it's parodying vintage western movies or how people actually lived back in 1882. Making jokes out of either one would have been fine, but merging the two just doesn't quite gel and leaves the film feeling even more indistinct then it already is. Still, Macfarlane and his crew are good enough writers that there are still a few big laughs, with one of the best coming courtesy of Liam Neeson and a flower.

Now honestly, this review seems to be taking on a more negative attitude than is truly appropriate for this movie. It's not a classic obviously, and it's not even that good, but it's a watchable adventure that at least has some good actors to offset it's jumbled appearance. I'm honestly surprised it's not doing better at the box office considering it feels like the sort of amiable star studded flick that makes major dough in the summertime, but perhaps being just OK with this kind of cast isn't good enough for audiences anymore. That's an interesting sign, but when it comes to me, I'll give credit for A Million Ways To Die In The West to least havethe courtesy to remain diverting, if structurally messy, for most of it's running time.

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