The Wild West 1882, a place where everything and anything is out to kill you. Albert Stark, a nerdy and cowardly sheepherder falls for a mysterious out of towner as she teaches him the ways of the gun so he can win back the heart of his old flame.
Moments before the film started I re-watched the red band trailer for A Million Ways to die… and was filled with dread. I just hoped they did not include the best gags and in some cases re-edit certain one liners or punch-lines, something which I see a lot in trailers which really grinds my gears. However, five minutes in and my worries were gone. Those gags and one liners shown in the trailers are believe it or not, the weakest of them all and that’s not a bad thing, for this film is a riot, for the most part.
Love him or hate him, Seth MacFarlane is back in the writing/directing/starring role, this time in the flesh. He plays Albert Stark, a cowardly shepherd who would rather be humiliated than take part in a duel, and die. He’s then dumped by his sweetheart, (Amanda Seyfried) for the moustachioed Foy (Neil Patrick Harris) even though he seems to be the only nice guy in the west, besides his best friend Edward, (Giovanni Ribisi). Edward is a Christian waiting to get married so he can have sex with his partner, a prostitute (Sarah Silverman) who’s also saving herself for him since she is a Christian. (Get it? She’s a Christian who’s a prostitute but is waiting to get married to have sex, although she’s a prostitute, and she’s had sex already.) I added that explanation just to give you a slight heads up. I’m not sure if MacFarlane understands his audience at times because occasionally throughout the film, a perfectly worded gag or punch-line is brought crashing down by one of the characters explaining it to us or continuing the joke until all humour has been stripped away. Seriously Seth, your dialogue isn’t Shakespeare or The Wachowskis, ergo we get the joke and please learn when to stop. Remember what the secret to great comedy is?
I would have gone further with that complaint but to my joy those missteps are only a few and if it wasn’t for his top notch cast it could have been worse. My main complaint though would be at the quarter way mark when Charlize Theron makes her entrance to teach Albert how to shoot since he has challenged Foy to a duel regardless if he can’t shoot for jack, and everyone else besides Seth take a backseat or downright disappears. I found this strange since the film takes its sweet time in establishing these characters only to get rid of them completely until the final showdown. However, the two as well as everyone else have great chemistry and it seems that all involved had a lot of fun making the film, especially Liam Neeson who has nothing more than a glorified cameo, even though a great one at that.
Besides the great cast, special mentions must go to the film’s cinematographer Michael Barrett. From the great canyons to the star filled non-light-polluted night sky, the film is actually quite beautiful to look at. Much work has also gone to the costumes and sets giving the film a rather realistic feel to it although sometimes a tad too colourful. (Or maybe I’m just getting too used to the washed out murky brooding atmosphere of films of late)
Despite its flaws A Million Ways to Die… is a treat. I could have done without some of the long drawn out gross gags but I guess in this new age of comedy, that’s what sells. The funnier parts come from the dialogue which is very modern and filled with expletives every ten or so words, did they swear so much back in the old days? Anyway I digress, this is not Blazing Saddles 2 nor is it a poorly made spoof of a classic western(thankfully) It is however a fun two hour ride with only a few minor bumps along the way, bring on…Two Million Ways to Die I guess.
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman, Giovanni Ribisi, Liam Neeson
Running Time: 116 minutes
Release Date: 30th May 2014