The Critical Couple Reviews “A Million Ways to Die in the West”
Watching movies may be one of America's most popular date-night activities, but it can also be one of the most contentious. That's where critics and real-life couple Roy and Adriane step in, putting their relationship on the line so you don't have to.
There's a breezy comedy buried deep within A Million Ways to Die in the West, but the funniest thing about the final product is the that fact that an editor is actually credited for editing it. Every joke is a dead horse in Seth MacFarlane's sluggish sophomore slouch, and that horse gets beaten for a mind-numbing 116 minutes. The tone is just as messy because along the very long way, MacFarlane thinks he's actually making a sweet-natured romantic western.
Let's look at it by the numbers. Seven: that's how many times I laughed. That's also the total number of jokes that get repeated over and over until you want to scream "Got it!" (which one character in the movie actually says). But it's hard to count the many ways this film flounders. In his first time out as leading man, MacFarlane is smart enough to surround himself with a cast that actually knows how to command the camera. But he squanders their talents, leaving Neil Patrick Harris defecating into a hat, Liam Neeson literally stuck with a daisy in his butt, and Charlize Theron with the unenviable chore of kissing MacFarlane.
With its scattershot gross-out jokes that make you pine for the Hays Code, Family Guy–style references to contemporary classics, and inexcusable running time, A Million Ways to Die in the West just wears you out. Who knew shock humor could be so shockingly boring? – ★
The latest directorial effort from Seth MacFarlane is an overlong mess—an orgy of gross-out humor, misguided sentimentality, and ham-fisted performances. It’s clear that A Million Ways to Die in the West was inspired by other rapid-fire comedies from the likes of Mel Brooks and the Farrelly brothers. But there’s one major difference between their films and this one: theirs are actually funny.
MacFarlane seems to believe that jokes get funnier the more you repeat them. They don’t. After one gag about a sheep peeing in our hero’s face falls flat, there’s a callback to it a few scenes later. And if watching Neil Patrick Harris defecate into a bowler hat one time makes you groan, just wait. (Spoiler alert: there’s a second bowler hat.)
But it’s not just the lousy jokes that make this movie a trainwreck—it’s everything else, too. The love story between Albert (Seth MacFarlane) and Anna (Charlize Theron) doesn’t pack any kind of emotional punch, as there’s little chemistry between the characters beyond their shared love of the F-word. Similarly, the villain—a ruthless gunslinger named Clinch (Liam Neeson)—seems to be wedged into the movie by force, as if MacFarlane realized his script didn’t have any real conflict right before filming commenced. But hey, who needs any of the basic elements of storytelling when you have half a dozen fart jokes? – ★ 1/2
Skip this crass, bloated film. The jokes land with a thud, and the thin, clichéd plot that holds all those failed punch lines together isn’t much better. If you’re a fan of this type of humor, just watch MacFarlane’s previous (and far superior) film, Ted. Or better yet, rent Blazing Saddles, the gold standard for all R-rated western spoofs.
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