A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)
Ever since the reviews came out for this film, telling me that it wasn’t funny etc I was cautious from then on in. Being a Family Guy fan I had to see this, knowing that I would get the humour that was in A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014). Sadly I was let down after seeing Ted (2012) that really scored high on comedy. Here the jokes felt too forced and unnatural. Of course the context being that shepherd Albert (Seth MacFarlane) was born out of his time, he is just too aware of the world around him. Going onto basically tear apart a genre and a time in his own countries history, he doesn’t even know that he’s doing it which is even worse. Wasn’t it brave people who went out into dangerous unexplored country, wanting to make a better life at any cost. Walking all over it for comedy value which is even worse. It’s a clever idea to comment on how dangerous living in the frontier but the joke runs sour after half an hour. Needing to keep things fresh which he does it to a point which he sticks with throughout and never lets up.
In keeping with western lore the shepherd is seen as pathetic and weak, not going for the stronger more respected cattle farming. Made even worse he gets his way out of most dangerous situations. Instead of standing up like a man of the frontier and having some courage. Something which does grow as the film progresses. He rightly looses his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) after seeing him weasel out of a gunfight. For a man living in the west he’s just plain “Yella” even simulating a fight to avoid getting hurt.
Things don’t really move on from the comical deaths in the street which I’ve seen all in the trailer a million times until Liam Neeson‘s (Clinch) is brought in with his gang, we are back on some track to having an entertaining western when a prospector is held up. His wife Anna (Charlize Theron) is told to wait in Albert’s town for a while. The woman with a conscience, throughly modern for her time yet not to the extreme of Albert who is going on 21st century. Catching him in the nick of time to train him to handle a gun. Reminding me of the gunfighter/mentor relationship between Henry Fonda‘s Morgan ‘Morg’ Hickman and Anthony Perkins Sheriff Ben Owens in The Tin Star (1957) which took a man who wanted to be strong and gave him the confidence to handle his gun a necessary tool in enforcing the law. Here it’s embarrassing for a man in the west to be taught by a woman to be strong. Shouldn’t it be the other way around in the west?
There are some good points to be find in this film. The landscape of Monument Valley was beautifully capture at sunrise and sunset, the magic of that location is something you can’t loose in any western. The musical sequences are to be expected from MacFarlane who is always giving his best, singing or not. When we are away from the obvious dangerous of the West there are some half decent jokes, whilst others are very questionable.
It’s not Macfarlane’s best work, spreading himself too thin these days with not just the animated comedies, (you can see why The Cleveland Show is doing so badly). He is reviving The Flintstones and thats just what I can think of the top of my head. You can see he’s not really comfortable in the lead role, something that should have been given to Theron and switched the perspectives which may have improved the flow of the film. It’s also part autobiographical, after reading an interview Macfarlane mentioned his lack of success with women because he is too nice, maybe this is an attempt to say that he can improve, become less of a nice guy with a chip on his shoulder. But that doesn’t mean take on all the big roles to make a film, from, directing, producing, writing and starring in the lead role. This would have made a nice comedy series or a short one-off comedy there is something in there, if only he hadn’t spread himself so thin. I know other directors can take on all these responsibilities and still give great performances. Yet there is a point where you compromise what you are doing. In either role he would have his name on it, just choose more wisely. Hopefully Ted 2 when the lawsuits are cleared up will be a return to form?