Seth MacFarlane writes, produces, directs, and even stars in his newest film, "A Million Ways to Die in the West," which is a dirty comedy-western parody that follows the very formula MacFarlane has used time and time again to outrage and offend some, while entertaining others. This film is filled with over-the-top sex jokes, vulgar language, multiple western spoofs, and unique character personalities played by an amusing cast, featuring MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, Neil Patrick Harris, and Sarah Silverman. Overall, "A Million Ways to Die in the West" is typical MacFarlane humor that provides hit-and-miss comedy at best, yet continues to be popular and amusing to fans for this type of content.
Let me continue by saying that I am a fan of some of MacFarlane’s previous work like "Family Guy" and "Ted." At the same time, I recognize that MacFarlane’s style relies on excessive raunchy dialogue, pop culture references, racist remarks, exaggerated stereotypes, and more. It’s not for everyone, but through all of the sex jokes, cussing, gross-out moments, and crude behavior, MacFarlane’s presentations do provide some laughable material for audiences who can tolerate it.
MacFarlane’s latest project, "A Million Ways to Die in the West," is set in “his” version of the wild west, a place where there are life-threatening dangers everywhere. From gunfights, to disease, to wild animals, to weather and more, these hazards make the west a difficult place to live. When a sheepherder named Albert (MacFarlane) loses his girlfriend, Louise (Seyfried), he begins to have a very cynical look on life, in large part due to all the clear risks around him and has second thoughts on living in the west. After meeting a new, mysterious friend, Anna (Theron), Albert begins to think he may have a chance at getting Louise back by making her jealous and pointing out what a fool her new guy is. But when Albert begins to develop feelings for his new friend and finds out she is the wife of one of the most dangerous outlaws in the west, his problems only get worse.
Aside from hosting the Oscars in 2013, the majority of MacFarlane’s credit as a comedian and filmmaker is due to animated television shows such as "Family Guy," "American Dad," "The Cleveland Show," "Dexter’s Laboratory," and more recently, a full-length, live-action film, "Ted," starring Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis. "A Million Ways to Die in the West" finally puts MacFarlane on center stage as the main character, writer, and director. The result is much like his Oscars performance; over-the-top jokes, indecent remarks, and male-centric humor.
The film is not a total loss, as it does present a moderate amount of laugh-out-loud moments and has a fairly engaging cast for this type of comedy. Charlize Theron plays a good-looking, tomboy sort whose chemistry with MacFarlane is lukewarm. Amanda Seyfried is MacFarlane’s ex, who has left him for a rich, eccentric mustache groomer, played by a lively Neil Patrick Harris. Giovanni Ribisi is featured as Sarah Silverman’s fiancé, who appears to have no problem with her job as a saloon prostitute. Liam Neeson is Clinch Leatherwood, the gun-slinging, Irish-speaking outlaw. There are several unexpected cameos, such as an appearance from Jamie Foxx (possibly as his character from the movie "Django: Unchained") during the end credits and a random scene featuring the film, "Back To The Future."
Through all the jokes and obscene comments, there is some attempt at seriousness and emotional connections, mostly involving MacFarlane and Theron’s characters. Aside from that, much of the dialogue and actions stems from sex, bad language, and an attempt to make a mockery of the western genre. Using old-fashioned traditions, overplayed customs, guns, and Indians, outlaws, drinking, and more, this movie pulls material from all directions. Although set in 1882 and using a good amount of older practices, the film primarily has modern language and references.
If your idea of humor is Neil Patrick Harris going to the bathroom in a hat in front of the entire town, MacFarlane getting sprayed in the face with urine from a sheep, multiple sex references and actions related to Sarah Silverman’s daily prostitution activity, or an animated dream sequence brought on by Indian drugs, then "A Million Ways to Die in the West" is for you.
Rated 2 out of 5 stars
"A Million Ways to Die in the West" is rated R for strong crude and sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug material. Running time 1 hour and 56 minutes.
Hayden Pittman is a special contributor to WFAA.com and a freelance film critic and entertainment blogger out of Dallas. More of his content can be found on YouPlusDallas.com and his author archive here. For more of his reviews on WFAA, click here. He is a film, TV, and sports enthusiast, and when not writing reviews or covering an event, he works in film production. As an average, passionate film lover who rarely misses a film, his reviews are straightforward and his way with words will let you know in a simple way what he thinks. Don’t like what he has to say? Let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @HPMoviePitt.