Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson
In 1882 Arizona, after pulling out of a dual cowardly sheep farmer, all round loser and general hater of the Wild West Albert Stark (MacFarlane) is dumped by his beloved girlfriend Anna (Amanda Seyfried). However ever after meeting a mysterious stranger named Anna (Theron), he finally finds his confidence as a spark emerges between the two of them. However, unknown to Albert, she is married to notorious gunslinger Clinch Leatherwood (Neeson), and when Clinch is told of a kiss shared between Albert and Anna by one of his men, he seeks vengeance.
First, I feel it is very important to establish something: Those who know me can certainly be forgiven for thinking that I went to see A Million Ways to Die in the West with the sole intention of hating it and subsequently getting angry about it. Well I swear, hand on heart, that I entered it with an open mind and wanted to like it and for Seth MacFarlane’s latest cinematic creation to make me laugh. I really did. Honest.
Well, firstly it is important to establish what is good about AMWTDITW; it is very well made from a technical point of view. Behind the camera, Macfarlane perhaps over does it with tracking shots of monument valley, but I found the entire film to be very well made. Likewise, Joel McNeely’s score unashamedly rips off music of the Western genre, but works well. MacFarlane certainly loves ripping off old genres as much as Tarantino, and throughout he seems happy to pay homage (rip off) Western’s from yesteryear, which in isolation is fine.
That is it though in terms of what is good about this, er, thing.
A Million Ways to Die in the West is a complete mess of a film, not only is Macfarlane a terrible actor, but he seems to have no idea of narrative coherence when writing a screenplay. I know most mainstream comedies these days are a series of sketches held together by a very basic ‘plot’, but this is worse than that, especially as none of the sketches are funny. It is hard to describe in a nutshell just how bad AMWTDITW is, but it is the most boring 116 minutes I have experienced this year so far.
I know I am in the minority in the fact I disliked Ted, but that for me showed that MacFarlane cannot write feature length scripts, with a final third that was cringe worthily clunky. Well that was Citizen Kane compared to this, as MacFarlane tries to combine genuinely unfunny sketches with apparently more serious moments in embarrassing attempts at character development. The dialogue in these scenes is appalling, and it is genuinely impossible to care what happens to any of these characters. Meanwhile the main joke of the film is in the title, which was never really funny in the first place, but when MacFarlane is not sure what to do with that he resorts to lowest common denominator toilet humour. At 116 minutes this film is way too long, Jeff Freeman is apparently the ‘editor’ of film, but it doesn’t feel like he actually did any editing with scenes going on for far longer than they should, as the pace feels more slow and stodgy than when trying to walk through a deep swamp.
Just to prove that AMWTDITW is a series of sketches and Seth MacFarlane has no sense of narrative coherence, there is a random sequence of sketches that he cannot find anywhere else in the narrative to put them into, so we have them all put together to form a ‘drug hallucination’ sequence which quite frankly, has no reason to be in the film, well of course ultimately the whole film ultimately has no reason to be in the film. The only moments I would say that actually brought on a slight chuckle were the array of (admittedly quite random) cameos, but then this is more down to the (genuinely disturbing) fact that MacFarlane has the influence to persuade famous faces to cameo in his films.
In his first (and hopefully last ever) attempt at playing the leading physical role, MacFarlane proves a truly uneasy screen presence, with a limited range of expressions, often resorting to over acting as a result, which is a truly cringe inducing watch. Theron does her best, and the scenes she shares with MacFralane prove they both had a great time making the film and got on well. Many of their conversations just feel like an improvised chat, which is a very alienating watch for the rest of us, and there is a real lack of any acting. Amanda Seyfried has very little to do with a clichéd caricature, meanwhile Giovanni Ribisi, Neil Patrick Harris and Sarah Silverman do their best with very poor material. Then there is Neeson; seemingly happy to exaggerate his own Northern Irish accent, he is simply happy to get his money and is on total autopilot, as well as getting his bum out (though it may well have been a body double).
Extremely disjointed, lazily ill disciplined and never funny, A Million Ways to die in the West is as boring as it is painful to watch; showcasing MacFarlane’s deluded faith in his lack of talent, complete lack of ability as an actual actor and an inability to write feature length scripts.
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