Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Neil Patrick Harris, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Wes Studi
Director: Seth McFarlane
Mood: If you’re completely beat from a mentally gruelling work week and your brain can’t handle much more than a Family Guy binge but you still really want to watch a Western.
A Million Ways to Die in the West seems like a raunchy, stupid comedy, and it is. It’s very that. But it’s also a hilarious spoof of everything classic Westerns try to convince us was great about the Old West.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to dive into an essay on how it’s some kind of brilliant metaphor or allegory or something.
This is the identical brand of adult satirical comedy that makes you either love Family Guy, or loathe it. And if you loathe it, this movie ain’t for you. I just happen to be in that jaded, late Gen-X demographic that spent my teens laughing my ass off at Beavis and Butt-Head, and I laughed my ass off through all of A Million Ways to Die in the West.
I’m not even ashamed to say that I’ll put it on again when I’ve had a bad day, or just need a break.
When asked what the heck she saw in Roger, Jessica Rabbit said simply, “He makes me laugh.” With all the crazy, awful things going on in the world, we NEED mindless comedy to save our souls.
A Million Ways to Die in the West takes place in 1882 Arizona. As soon as sheep farmer Albert (Seth MacFarlane) opens his mouth, all you can hear is Family Guy’s Brian, and it takes a few scenes to let that go.
Anyway, Albert gets dumped and his ex-girlfriend takes up with the dandy Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), who owns the town’s moustachery. This comes with a ridiculously funny song and dance about the joys and power of having a moustache, which Albert does not.
- Fun Fact: Although it’s perfectly fitting, that song wasn’t written for the movie; it’s a rewrite of an actual 1864 song, Stephen Foster’s ‘If You’ve Only Got a Moustache’.
Albert complains a lot about being dumped and Old West life to his friends. Then he meets a mysterious stranger named Anna (Charlize Theron), who sees something in him and decides to teach him to shoot so he can fight Foy.
But Anna is actually outlaw Clinch Leatherwood’s (Liam Neeson) woman, so now Albert has bigger problems.
And that’s pretty much it. The plot outline on Wikipedia is more serious and in-depth than the story. It’s really just a Western framework for a shitload of dirty jokes, slapstick comedy, endless cameos, and commentary on frontier life.
You aren’t watching A Million Ways to Die in the West for its brains, its cinematography, or its authentic Western-ness. It’s about as close to an adult cartoon-turned-movie as you can get, assuming that cartoon is Family Guy.
But if this is your taste, and I’m assuming it is because why else would you keep reading – there’s a lot to enjoy here.
- EVERYTHING about Wes Studi as Cochise is fantastic, not just his lines but his obvious delight in cheekily mocking the genre he usually commands with stoic authority; Studi spoke Apache in the movie, but called the plot a gut-buster that’s “the white man’s joke on the white man”
- Giovanni Ribisi’s commitment to playing the sweet, naïve straight man is priceless
- Neil Patrick Harris slips so effortless into his role of a shady dandy, which was reminiscent of Sheriff Behan in Tombstone, that he feels born to play this kind of character; then you start thinking about how many characters Harris seems born to play…
- Liam Neeson’s performance is at once a part of, and also oblivious to, the stupidity going on around him; his character Clinch, though obviously a nod to Clint, has tiny hints of comedic villains like Kirk Douglas in The Villain
- On that note, Neeson took the role because Family Guy once said he made an unconvincing American cowboy
- Um, hello Jamie Foxx, wandering in as Django to kill off another racist white guy and simultaneously nod to Blazing Saddles (“Bring me one of those white women!”)
- It would be impossible for Family Guy fans NOT to appreciate seeing Alex Borstein as a madam, and that Albert’s spoken ‘Apache’ includes saying “Mila Kunis”
- What does it say about me that I needed to see Gilbert Gottfried as a terrible Abraham Lincoln impersonator?
Oh, and in case you thought Albert’s ‘war chant’ sounded annoyingly familiar – it was ‘Tarzan Boy’ by ‘80s one-hit wonder Baltimora.
A Million Ways to Die in the West is what it is, and if you were expecting anything else that’s on you.
I held off on reviewing this movie for way too long because I felt like I had to focus on broadening my Western horizons, seeking intelligent stories, and catching up on the gazillion classics.
But we can’t take ourselves so seriously all the damn time, and only watch highbrow shit that wins awards. I mean, you can, but then you’re probably not the kind of person who clicked to read this review. What are you even doing here? Are you lost?
It’s good to take the piss out of the things we love, especially our favourite movie genres. And Westerns, as much as I love and live for them, are among the most deserving of mockery.