I was sort of looking forward to a new comedic take on the Western when this was announced, and the cast MacFarlane assembled did nothing to damper that enthusiasm. The results on-screen have some elements that do work, for the most part, I just wish MacFarlane’s idea of being “edgy” wasn’t poop and anal sex jokes.
None of the humor in the that aforementioned arena does anything and it is surprising that someone who clearly appreciates Blazing Saddles like MacFarlane does didn’t try to push the envelope the way Brooks did. I understand this is a different time, and the PC police would come down on them hard, but if he could have pulled it off he might have had something special here. As it stands, the film has a few solid chuckles and a solid, yet tired, buddy/romance thing going on with MacFarlane and Charlize Theron.
The stuff between Theron and MacFarlane is good enough (with Liam Neeson delighting on their fringe) that you wonder why MacFarlane put so much time into any of the side characters only to almost entirely abandon them once Theron shows up. I get setting up your world, which MacFarlane does well enough, but he devotes so much time to his side characters only to prove how unimportant they are to the movie. Maybe if they parsed that time they get early on over the course of the film they might have resonated, but as it stands Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, and Sarah Silverman are all wasted. Neil Patrick Harris elevates the most out of the supporting cast, but his biggest moment should have been the mustache dance, not shitting in, not one, but two hats.
Theron is having a lot of fun here and you can feel her and MacFarlane’s joy of hanging out together through the screen. MacFarlane as a lead walks a fine line of working towards being a mess, but I think that has more to do with his script being a bit too indulgent than his performance. The nerdy guy shtick works, but MacFarlane needed to be a bit more diligent with the editing. The other thing going against the film is the anachronistic elements of the humor that never feel right, even with the presence of a time machine cameo in the film. Speaking of cameos, most of the best bits in the film are cameos, with the best one showing up in the final shot and subsequent post credits stinger (which also steals the best line from Blazing Saddles). Liam Nesson also delights, and I love that he has finally found that comedy he has always strived for.
A Million Ways to Die in the West might be a bit long and have an average joke success rate, but that seems fitting for a pretty average movie. I didn’t enjoy Ted a lot, so maybe fans of that will enjoy this more, but if you are interested in the film it is worth at least a rental later this year. I just don’t know if it is worth rushing out to the theater for.
A Million Ways to Die in the West is a C