‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’ Review

Published 3 months ago by , Updated August 10th, 2014 at 10:31 pm,

A Million Ways to Die in the West Movie Liam Neeson Seth MacFarlane Charlize Theron A Million Ways to Die in the West Review

A Million Ways to Die in the West follows lovable (and sarcastic) sheep farmer Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane), as he attempts to get his life together after being dumped by his girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfried). While Louise suggests she needs time to “work on herself,” it isn’t long before she begins working on well-to-do business man and mustache aficionado, Foy (Neil Patrick Harris) – adding further frustration to Albert’s already negative view of life on the Arizona frontier. Discontent with the rigors of life (as well as risk of death) in the Old West, and without anyone one but his best friend Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) and a set of curmudgeonly parents to keep him in Old Stump, Albert begins plotting a move to San Francisco – until fate intervenes.

After Albert saves newcomer Anna (Charlize Theron) during a bar fight, the mysterious (and tough) young woman takes an interest in her sheep farming rescuer – promising to help Albert win back the heart of Louise if he agrees to stay in Old Stump. However, it isn’t long before Albert begins to forget about Louise, realizing that Anna is his true love – that is until her outlaw husband, Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), suddenly appears in town thirsty for revenge.

A Million Ways to Die in the West Movie Seth MacFarlane Charlize Theron A Million Ways to Die in the West Review

Seth MacFarlane and Charlize Theron in ‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’

Known best for his work creating, writing, and voicing animated series (including The Cleveland Show, Family Guy, and American Dad), Seth MacFarlane has spent a significant amount of time behind the camera – with only minor guest appearances on live-action TV. Two years back, the filmmaker took a bold step into feature film directing with Ted - the critically-acclaimed story of Mark Wahlberg and an unsavory CGI teddy bear. Now, MacFarlane is stepping outside his animated comfort zone once again, with a starring role in his own Western farce, A Million Ways to Die in the West. The result is a somewhat mixed bag: while MacFarlane is fine in the leading role, the larger film doesn’t excel beyond standard raunch comedy bits woven together by a familiar and underdeveloped story of self-empowerment.

In general, A Million Ways to Die in the West is a harmless collection of chuckle-worthy gags that should please the Family Guy crowd, but falls short of capturing the same heart and laugh-out-loud moments that made Ted a hit. Without question, the film borrows heavily from satire greats (especially Mel Brooks), presenting a solid farcical tale  told from the perspective of a disillusioned and hyper-aware protagonist. Still, while there are traces of comedy greatness in A Million Ways to Die in the West, MacFarlane lacks the same restraint as his comedy heroes, often taking the low road to laughs with overindulgent raunchy jokes.

Neil Patrick Harris Amanda Seyfried A Million Ways to Die in the West A Million Ways to Die in the West Review

Neil Patrick Harris and Amanda Seyfried in ‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’

The approach might work on Family Guy, but MacFarlane presents the story of Albert and Anna with a bit more sincerity. As a result, in a movie that prominently features erect sheep genitalia and a bowler hat brimming with diarrhea, it’s a rough disconnect when the filmmaker attempts to force tender moments onto cartoonish characters living in a flippant Western world.

Nevertheless, MacFarlane’s self-described “nerd” protagonist is an entertaining focal point - thanks to a subtle juxtaposition of modern day colloquials and sensibilities in a movie that otherwise commits to its 19th century setting. Allowing Albert (and Anna) slightly more awareness than the rest of the cast, the filmmaker successfully reflects on the quirks and absurdities of the time period – without violating the core premise. For that reason, MacFarlane and Theron spend most of their time poking fun at old timey photos, Victorian ball gowns, and racial stereotypes – whereas the rest of the cast is expected to play their caricatures with a straight face.

Giovanni Ribisi Sarah Silverman A Million Ways to Die in the West A Million Ways to Die in the West Review

Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman in ‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’

Liam Neeson phones-in with his best impression of a movie outlaw, but Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman chew up the scenery as loving couple, Edward and Ruth, who are faced with the timeless challenge of balancing career goals and a relationship – made even more complicated by the fact that Ruth is a (very busy) saloon prostitute. Amanda Seyfried offers an amusing turn as a shallow 1880s girl speaking in familiar 21st century platitudes, but Neil Patrick Harris steals most of Seyfried’s scenes as an ostentatious (albeit moneymaking) facial hair entrepreneur and overall prick – who also happens to slip in a How I Met Your Mother easter egg.

No doubt, there’s a market for films like A Million Ways to Die in the West and longtime MacFarlane fans (as well as raunch-comedy lovers) should find plenty to enjoy in the Western spoof. A quality cast and a storyline rife with tongue-in-cheek set pieces makes the movie an easy recommendation for viewers who will be satisfied by an undemanding string of Western-inspired antics – elevated by some enjoyable cameos and a few brief moments of biting satire.

That said, for moviegoers that expect a bit more, A Million Ways to Die in the West will be short on laugh-out-loud comedy beats – while also failing to find the “heart” that made  similar genre farces like Blazing Saddles timeless comedy classics.

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A Million Ways to Die in the West runs 116 minutes and is Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug material. Now playing in theaters.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below. For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant editors check back soon for our Million Ways to Die in the West episode of the SR Underground podcast.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

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36 Comments

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  1. I find its hard to get a fair rating on Seth’s stuff because he’s a love it or leave it kind of persona and you either find his brand of humor funny or you don’t.

    • I’m mostly in the latter camp. I don’t find Family Guy or his other works funny. Married with Children, Simpsons, Ren and Stimpy…those I can laugh at. Different taste of humor.

  2. Help me 22 Jump Street!! You’re my only hope for a good summer comedy!!

    • umm…neighbors???

      • Nope, it sucked. The only mildly funny part was the airbag in the chair but even that wasn’t very funny after seeing it a million times in the trailer.

        • Humor is very subjective. I and many others found Neighbors to be hilarious. I went to see it twice, and out of both times there was only one person I saw it with that didn’t like it. The rest of us all did.

          • I don’t know how anyone could not find neighbors funny. I saw it 4 times and still laughed the last time at the way the jokes were so expertly crafted and performed, plus all the little nuanced stuff that I missed.
            Literally all 4 times, the entire theatre walked out with a smile on their face. It’s easily one of the best movie experiences of the year.

  3. “critics” crack me up. I have yet to read any of them say..it was a fun mindless comedy that was just fun to watch and laugh at. I cant wait to see it because I loved family guy and loved ted.

    people have just forgotten how to let go and enjoy movies. Not me fools!!

    • Are you serious? What was funny about it??? It was unoriginal pap designed to further damage the collective. This is exactly the type of movie that should get hung out to dry and then beaten with a stick. F*** THIS MOVIE.

      You must be one of those guys who thinks family guy is still funny.

      • umm…over analyze movies much?? its a comedy…not saving private ryan.

        • Look, in general, I agree that people are way too serious about movies that miss the mark, but you’re talking to a guy with very low expectations for films. I also laugh at anything funny…but this movie was simply terrible. I definitely didn’t go into it expecting an oscar worthy flick, but I did expect tk be entertained. I’m not joking when I say that there were maybe 20 laughs throughout the movie a packed theatre. I don’t mean 20 laughs per person. I mean 20 total laughs.

          I’m done talking about this piece of S***. If you enjoyed it, congrats. Most of the people I’ve talked to didn’t.

    • Wade,

      “…in a movie that prominently features erect sheep genitalia and a bowler hat brimming with diarrhea…”

      Oh, yeah – this MUST be a “laff-riot” of a flick.

    • Wade….if you’re a fan of Seth, you’ll notice he’s been retweeting positive reviews calling it a hilarious film and “comedy of the year”.

      Personally, I love his shows and think Family Guy is improving again now his focus has come back after The Cleveland Show’s demise was announced but the jokes Vic mentioned in his reply to you….well, they don’t sound very funny to me, they sound more like things meant to shock and become a water cooler moment more than a memorable joke that actually works (which is why I get turned off by supposed comedy films that have a lot of humour based on body functions and sex because they’re lowest common denominator). Even Ted suffered from a few jokes that veered in that direction too.

      Anyway, hate to do this but the review says “ostentations” rather than “ostentatious”.

      • Never apologize for politely pointing out a typo. Thanks for catching it! Fixed.

    • Critics do have a job to do, judging a movie more on “letting go and just enjoying.” However, I do agree audiences shouldn’t necessarily watch movies at the same level a critic does. Movies are made for audiences to escape and enjoy, it’s just a critic’s job to dissect what does and doesn’t work about it so that filmmakers can improve their craft.

    • you know, I find it funny how people stand up for ‘Seth MacFarlane’. If you don’t think he’s funny, than the jokes are ‘too complicated’ for you, and if the his brand of ‘comedy’ is really too bland than ‘people don’t know how to laugh at mindless jokes’. How can his jokes be too complicated and mindless at the same time? Or are they mindless all the time?

      • Government bureaucracy can be complicated and mindless at once. It seems to thrive on doing so.

  4. This movie was horrendous. I am amazed every time I see an article that isn’t blasting it for wasting two hours of your time!! I enjoyed Ted and I’ve seen plenty of hours of his comedies but this was just brutal.

    Truly one of the worst films of the decade.

  5. Saw this movie close to 3 weeks ago. I thought it was one of those movies to go see with a group for a good laugh and had some great cameos. Neil Patrick Harris definalty steels the scenes that he’s in. It was hard to look at Seth McFarlane face with his comedy, didn’t think he pulled his scenes off that well but then again he’s a voice over actor not an on screen actor. The relashionship between
    Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman character was pretty hilarious . I think talking about Liam Neeson character will flow into spoiler territory since I’ll want to talk about his scenes so I’ll stay away from that on this post. Overall I don’t know if I would pay to see this unless I was going with a group of friends. I think it helps the atmosphere of the movie for the comedy it brings to the table.

  6. I have not seen it but the trailer sucked pretty bad so if that was supposed to be some of the highlights i’m not too tempted.

    I do like Seth McFarlane but not sold on this.

    I would normally crawl over broken glass to see Amanda Seyfried though. I may be back with a more educated opinion yet.

  7. I saw this last night and it was just meh to me. Most of the really funny parts have already been seen in the trailer. NPH’s and Ribisi’s characters were the highlight for me and felt like they presented more “comedy” moments in the movie as oppose to McFarlane’s character. I think McFarlane needs to stick to just voa and creating shows/movies and not screen acting. I think by him being the main guy it really hurt the movie because the guy is just not a screen actor. Too many forced moments in this movie. It felt like The Hangover 2 at times with predictable “comedy” moments and over the top material that has been done over too many times

    • Agreed. The worst part of this movie was having to watch Seth McFarlane’s terrible acting. I don’t even get the reason for him being there..? Why did he cast himself as a lead? And why did he then force himself to be animated, when he’s obviously more of a talker than an actor.

      I really hate this movie.

  8. Its not groundbreaking or amazing, but i laughed more yhan i rolled my eyes. That is enough for me.

  9. I like seth comedies and shows ,but that trailer was not funny and looked terrible so I decided to skip this one .Hopefully ted 2 will live up to the first movie.

  10. Saw the movie and I’ve read the commentaries. Here’s the thing :
    A) If you’re the “critical” moviegoer type who must analyze every single frame of a movie, then skip this one.
    B). If you’re just got off from a long shift from work and you wanna be entertained (like me), then see this movie.

    NPH and Silverman stole the show IMO. I’m not gonna spoil the cameos & a couple of 80s gold nuggets/jokes are in this.
    As with every McFarlane shows/film, his jokes are crude & unapologetically non-PC. Some of the death scenes were brutal but it’s part of the comedy.

    It’s a good comedy for a date movie, IMO. Gave it a 4 star.

    • I think if I took a big ole dump in a shoebox I think it would be a better story than this…notice to hollywood…if you make poop and dress it all up,at the end of the day, it’s still poop

      • I agree. Normally I love McFarlane’s work but this was as bad as Grown Ups 2. Defending this movie is like defending GU 2 IMO. Just bad

  11. The film had me realy laughing out loud. Brilliant

  12. I plan on seeing this movie Tuesday with friends and co workers.Somebody tell me is it at least funny as Neighbors?..if so then I can deal with it.I was sold when I saw the Doc Brown cameo.

  13. I am not a fan of McFarlanes work at all but I love westerns and “Blazings Saddles” is a classic so I was on the fence…..and that Doc Brown cameo looked awesome. But even in the trailer there was to much McFarlane. So I’m not gonna see it in theaters but maybe Ill watch it on netflix when it gets on there.

    • not every movie gets to netflix just so you know.

      • Well pretty much every movie gets on kickass torrents so I don’t think finding it will be a problem

  14. I went to see this movie because seth was the lead. I never laughed so hard at a movie, I thought it was great, cant wait to see him in more movies. seth mcfarlane keep it up, this world needs more minds like yours.

  15. Who was the idiot who wrote this movie?! What person in their right mind would say Our Lords name in vain… Repeatedly throughout the entire movie! So sad. I wont ever watch another movie with Seth again

  16. I thought this movie was amazing… I know that everyone is entitled to their opinions but i think this really worked. I saw this movie in Germany, and several times the Americans got the jokes and the Germans didn’t (I.E. the native american crack) I laughed the whole time and walked out with a must own attitude. That being said I am a seth fan and if you do enjoy his comedy you will love this movie! I personally liked it better then Ted.

  17. Did anything one else who saw it notice that the set looked VERY similar to the town or Armadillo in Red Dead Redemption?

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