Friday 8 September 2017

Movie Review: A Million Ways To Die In The West (2014)

A western comedy, A Million Ways To Die In The West contains plenty of rude and crude laughs, but remains confined to a few repetitive themes.

It's 1882 in the small town of Old Stump, Arizona. Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) is a peaceful and meek sheep farmer, constantly worried about the many ways people can die in the west. When he walks away from a gunfight, his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) dumps him and immediately starts a relationship with moustache grooming business owner Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). Albert's only friend is Edward (Giovanni Ribisi), who is deeply in love with the town whore Ruth (Sarah Silverman).

Heartbroken after the breakup with Louise, Albert find solace with the newly arrived and mysterious Anna (Charlize Theron), who teaches him to shoot but forgets to tell him that she is married to Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), the meanest outlaw and gunfighter in the territory. Despite his peaceful nature Albert finds himself bracing for showdowns with both Foy and Clinch.

There is undoubted fun to be had in A Million Ways To Die In The West. The humour is sharp, dark sometimes brutal and always vulgar, and more often than not generates the required laughter. MacFarlane co-wrote and directed the film, and does not try to move it too far away from a modern piece of satire that happens to be set in the west. The film plonks self-aware personalities into a western context, and derives most of its charm from the characters commenting on a ridiculous way of life.

But MacFarlane also traps himself into a limited number of themes, and tumble dries the jokes to a stiff standstill. Yes, there are many ways to die in the west, yes Albert is sheep farmer, yes women married young, and yes Foy is insufferably full of himself. The humour don't stray far from these topics, and MacFarlane cannot climb down from a juvenile rate of one bodily fluid joke per minute. The romance elements never come close to clicking, and the many gunfight showdown set pieces don't try even try to generate tension.

The actors go through the film with various shades of smiles. None take their roles seriously, and given a prevailing tone that stops just short of openly winking at the audience, that's just fine.

At almost two hours the film is about 20 minutes too long. There may be A Million Way To Die In The West, but the point is made well before the end credits.

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