Thursday, June 19, 2014

“A Million Ways To Die In The West” Hangs Comedy At High Noon

Seth MacFarlane, I will freely admit you have a very charming, boyish grin. Unfortunately, that's not enough to carry a movie. And it certainly doesn't help that the hilarious, talented cast assembled here only sinks the movie further with all the wasted opportunities they represent rather than elevating it like they should have.

MacFarlane is our kinda hero, a cowardly sheep farmer named Albert, in 1882 Arizona, a time and place where “everything out here that's not you wants to kill you.” After he backs out of another duel, his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) dumps him and takes up with Foy, (Neil Patrick Harris) the owner of the town's “mustachery.”

He has few other good things in his life, so it looks bleak until a mysterious woman named Anna (Charlize Theron) moves into town, and they quickly strike up a friendship that, of course, soon turns into a romance. But he discovers Anna is already married, and her husband just happens to be Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson) the deadliest outlaw in the West.

Then there's the side story that almost vanishes once Anna shows up, that of Albert's best friend Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) and his fiance Ruth (Sarah Silverman, how the hell can you waste her??!!). Ruth is a good Christian who wants to wait for their wedding before having sex...well, with Edward anyway. Yeah, she's a prostitute who has sex with multiple men a day while Edward waits downstairs. A situation like this demands that time be spent on it, and you can practically hear it screaming for the attention it hardly ever gets. Yes, you read that right. Almost no time is spent on this.

There are a few good jokes, but “A Million Ways To Die In West” would rather spend their time on toilet humor than pursue anything that could really pay off.

Then there's MacFarlane himself. Acting is clearly not his natural state, so a movie where he's the focus should play to his strengths. It does not. MacFarlane is at his best when he's being Edward's best friend, the inept guy interacting with his deadly environment and all the characters around him who ARE in their element. But in a movie where the romance is front and center, MacFarlane is at his least believable as a romantic lead. If only “A Million Ways To Die In The West” had Mark Wahlberg to do what he did for “Ted,” or someone just as capable as he is at playing the lovable slacker, he might have been able to at least make the film average.

If there is any merit to be found here, it's that Albert doesn't magically turn into the perfect gunslinger that would be so unnatural for him. MacFarlane remains true to the character, mostly thinking rather than fighting his way out of his predicaments.

But I would recommend just watching the trailer. You'll get the movie's best moments without having to sit through the rest of the trash that it throws at you.

Grade: D

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