It’s becoming a larger and larger problem in Hollywood: trailers, particularly comedies, give too much away about a film, and when it comes time to watch it there is little surprise left. That is one of the flaws about “A Million Ways to Die in the West”, the second live-action film directed by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane. The film features an ensemble cast, including Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris and Liam Neeson.
The trailer paints an entirely different plot than what the movie is actually about, and I’m finding it somewhat difficult to give a plot synopsis, but really all you have to know is the film is two hours of Seth MacFarlane, a sheep farmer, learning to fire a gun from Theron and complaining about how the Wild West is a terrible place.
I’ll make one thing clear: the film is funny. There were a couple times I think I missed a joke because I was laughing at something that was just said. And there is no doubting MacFarlane’s ability as a writer; he once again has some very clever and very funny envelope-pushing jokes that you laugh at, even when you know you shouldn’t be laughing. There are also a half-dozen cameos which are chuckle-worthy, and there is one that is brilliant…if you haven’t seen the trailer. Unfortunately for me, I did see the trailer and the surprise was ruined, which actually made me upset. I don’t know why they needed to ruin such a great thing, and they didn’t even start showing the cameo in the trailers until two weeks ago. Trailers, man…
The largest problem with “A Million Ways” is that, much like Peter Jackson or Quentin Tarantino, MacFarlane the director keeps most things he shoots in the final cut of the film. The running time of this movie clocks in at 116 minutes, and there are probably three faux endings before it finally abruptly ends. There really is no excuse for such a long running time with a comedy.
Much of the movie feels like an inside joke and rightfully so; the entire concept started as joke among MacFarlane and the film’s other writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild that the Old West must have been a deadly place to live. Much of the film is so awkwardly stitched together and there are so many random subplots that it just feels like a bunch of random scenes from a Family Guy episode just played back to back. They just threw a lot of jokes against the wall in hopes something would stick.
Each of the cast members brings something to the table (except Amanda Seyfried, who is in here simply to put one more big name on the cast list) and MacFarlane has his funny moments, but he just seems out of place as a live-action leading man. Some of his deliveries are awkward, and other times he just can’t hold up the scene with Theron or NPH (that’s what we cool kids call Neil Patrick Harris). I also have to imagine that Liam Neeson was cast as an American cowboy simply because Family Guy once made a joke that “nothing would sound more out-of-place than Liam Neeson trying to play an American cowboy”.
“A Million Ways to Die in the West” is messy and overlong for sure, but it is also funny. It isn’t on the same level as “This Is the End”, or even “Ted”, but it is still a fun time at the movies. I think MacFarlane should stick to making movies set in present day because he thrives off of pop culture references and lampooning American culture; not making a joke about tumble weeds.
Critics Rating: 6/10