Monday, November 10, 2014

A Million Ways to Die in the West

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! In fairness, I have watched far worse western comedies.

A Million Ways to Die in the West – 3 out of 5

In my circle of friends and acquaintances (also called your Friends List on Facebook), Seth MacFarlane’s work is very polarizing.  I know people that absolutely love him and think he’s a comedic genius and I know people that absolutely hate him and feel he is destroying the integrity of all we known and love about comedy.  Personally, I like the guy but I will admit that I don’t find all his work to be the best thing I’ve taken in.  There was a time when I gave up on Family Guy and didn’t watch it for a few years because I grew tired of seeing the same gags and pointless references but I eventually came back to it and still occasionally watch it to this day.  And then you have Ted and I loved the hell out of that film.  So, how does A Million Ways to Die in the West stand in the spectrum?  Is it near Ted or near the time when I stopped watching Family Guy?  Well, you can already see the score and already know that it is in-between both of them…*cough*

"Hey, remember that time when I...(fill in the rest)"

Let’s just get to the synapsis…

Holy crap!  Forget the synopsis, Mr. Belding is in this film!  I once hugged him.  True story.

The look of a woman about to leave has not changed
over the years...
The Old West was a dangerous time in our history and Albert (Seth MacFarlane) will make a point of telling us numerous times in this film.  Albert is clearly not comfortable living during this era and it ends up costing him his relationship with Louise (Amanda Seyfried) and she leaves him for a more manly man (Neil Patrick Harris).  Albert is forlorn and ends up meeting a stranger new to town named Anna (Charlize Theron) and she agrees to help him get Louise back—unfortunately, he finds out that she is the wife of famed killer Clinch (Liam Neeson).  Now Albert is being hunted and forced to try and not become the next one the Old West claims.

Just another way to die in the West.

Like any MacFarlane property, the film throws a lot—A LOT—of jokes at you and the results are that some are funny, some are hilarious, some are disappointing and a lot of them can end up with absolutely no reaction from the viewer whatsoever.  I laughed at many times in this film but too often a lot of gags are just repeats with new ingredients from other moments in the film, then there's fart jokes, and there's the predictable humor that can be seen coming a mile away.  One trope I felt MacFarlane relied way too heavily on was the use of vulgarity and swears to try and create laughs.  Fuck-bombs and shit-daggers don’t bother me but thinking that saying “Fuck” or “Shit” instantly means a punchline comes off as lazy.  I can’t help but think of how, in my 15 years of doing stand up comedy, I’ve seen way too many new comics think that by saying “fuck” at the end of a joke (or yelling it) instantly means laughs or those comics who didn’t write their jokes up as well as they thought they did and just stand there adding “uh’s” and “fucking’s” in-between their words (for example, "I was...uh...fucking...uh...driving my car when fucking I...uh..." You get the idea).  In A Million Ways to Die in the West, you can make a drinking game of how often MacFarlane decides to cap a scene and create a punchline by just having a character utter “shit” or add a “fuck” pointless into a line in a vain effort to transform it into a joke.  Without a doubt, this is the most repetitive part of the film and the part the worked the least amount of times for me.

It's a fair bet that "shit" and "fuck" was uttered at least twice in this scene.

NPH wins points for pulling off that mustache ridiculously
While I’m a casual fan of MacFarlane, I can’t help but think that acting may not be his thing.  As a voice actor, the guy is great and really brings all his characters to life on his shows very well but actually physically acting…not so much.  While his bad acting was played up for chuckle-worthy moments in the film, his inability to look legit or even realistic ended up making many scenes look amateurish.  However, he is surrounded by people who know what they are doing and are able to make the film work fairly well.  Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman and Neil Patrick Harris were, in my opinion, the stand outs in the film and they were able to find a balance of being great actors and being just over-the-top enough to make the comedy work.  Liam Neeson was also very strong in the film and his straight-man villain performance ended up working very well for the comedy and film.

Look at them...being all hilarious and shit!

Yeah...I had to watch Django Unchained after this scene.
While I didn’t spend the time rolling on the floor laughing my tushy off, one thing I really enjoyed about the film was the fun cameos the movie had.  Honestly, this was my favorite part.  Whether it be seeing Doc Brown and the DeLorean show up for a Family Guy-esque reference sequence, or Ewan McGregor suddenly showing up at the town’s fair, or Ryan Reynolds coming on board and remaining absolutely silent like he was in Ted, or Django showing up, or even seeing the likes of Gilbert Gottfried, John Michael Higgins, Bill Maher and Patrick Stewart coming in for small bit roles just made the film a lot more enjoyable and seemed to make up for some of the less amusing moments.

It's really just a Family Guy bit but damn, it was nice to see the Doc.

You don't see McGregor making many cameos in comedies.
Ladies, drop your bloomers because Ryan Reynolds is in this!

I've tried...I just can't hate Liam Neeson...mostly because
I fear him.
Finally, the story may not be the most feathered out.  At times, the film feels like two scripts that exist in the same universe and are filmed one after another—one of them being about Albert wanting to get Louise back and the other being about Albert having to take on Clinch.  The biggest reason I got this feeling from the film was because Liam Neeson doesn’t have a large presence in the movie.  He’s introduced and then forgotten about while Anna and Albert get to known each other and then is suddenly brought back in towards the Final Act.  There is a small sense that he is still there in the background during the times he’s not around thanks to Anna’s hesitance around Albert and the fact Clinch has a henchman in the town but, ultimately, Clinch feels forgotten about in the script and it made the film feel a little jarring.

"I'm just showing up when I feel like...just like in Battleship."

Without a doubt, A Million Ways to Die in the West isn’t a perfect comedy.  A lot of the jokes fall flat and the truly hilarious moments are too few.  However, the parts in-between the bad and the truly awesome are amusing enough that the film never gets boring.  Sure, MacFarlane is clearly not an actor and being behind the mic to give animated characters life and being behind a typewriter (people still use those, right?) to give life to a story and a script is where he is the strongest but he wasn’t bad enough to destroy the film.  Overall, the film is watchable and mildly entertaining but nowhere near MacFarlane’s strongest work.

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