Review: A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014 movie)

Seth MacFarlane — best known for creating the animated series Family Guy and providing the voices of (among others) Peter (the father), Stewie (the baby), Brian (the dog), and Quagmire (the pervert) — directed, co-wrote, co-produced, and starred in this comedy western. The result is reasonably enjoyable, sometimes quite funny (though nowhere near as much as his first film, Ted, reviewed here), and frequently obscene, MacFarlane not being known for understatement. Attempts to add a little romantic depth unfortunately slow things to a crawl in some spots.

Our hero is a lonely sheep farmer whose best friends are Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman, a deeply religious couple who are saving themselves for marriage. (Silverman’s activities as a saloon prostitute don’t count, since that’s her job. Ribisi, a shoe repairman, notes that his job sucks too.)

MacFarlane is devastated when his girlfriend, Amanda Seyfried, dumps him for Neil Patrick Harris, the successful owner of the local mustache supply store, but then newcomer Charlize Theron takes a liking to MacFarlane when he rescues her during a bar fight. Unfortunately she’s been married since childhood to murderous outlaw Liam Neeson, who’s elsewhere but soon to arrive.

At one point MacFarlane is captured by a band of Apaches who are astonished when he begins speaking to them in their own tongue. “How is it that you, an asshole, speak our language?” one of them asks. He explains (still speaking Apache, but translated for the audience in subtitles) that he’s a nerd and hence reads lots of books, speaks several languages, and is good at math. An Apache translator is named in the end credits, but I have my doubts that in Apache the word for “fine” is really “Mila Kunis.” (Though Mila Kunis is indeed fine.)

There are a number of cameos, including Patrick Stewart as a talking sheep in a dream, Bill Maher as the MC at the town dance, Ewan McGregor as a bystander at the fair, Ryan Reynolds as a man shot down in cold blood by Liam Neeson (which suggests Neeson might have seen Green Lantern), and others, including two nice surprises I won’t spoil by revealing.

It’s not as good as I might have hoped (don’t expect Blazing Saddles), but I’ve seen worse.


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