Creating a Genre Buster movie can be a tall order. Mixing film themes is a difficult juggling act. You can hit pay dirt with films like Ghostbusters and Zombieland mixing comedy, scares and great Sc-Fi. On the flip side you can miss the mark completely and get stuck watching Bruce Willis sing and kill his way through Hudson Hawk. The balancing act of a Genre Buster is something Seth MacFarlane has shown impressive skills at executing in his work. MacFarlane’s long running sitcom The Family Guy is a like a kid off his meds as it throws theme after theme at the audience with its irreverent pop culture humor. Two years ago MacFarlane jumped to the big screen and turned the raunchy teddy bear come to life fairy tale Ted into the surprise hit of that summer. Now, MacFarlane has decided to really test his Genre Busting skills trying to insert his brand of smart toilet humor into the old west in Universal’s A Million Ways to Die in the West.
In A Million Ways to Die in the West, MacFarlane doesn’t hide behind a stuffed talking bear. He takes the lead as Albert Stark, Arizona’s worst sheep farmer living in a small frontier town in 1892. MacFarlane seems at ease in front of the camera where he’s basically playing himself in the film. MacFarlane does not have the deer in the headlights look one would expect from someone who has spent most of his time behind the camera. The problem is MacFarlane’s character, Albert and the rest of the cast don’t really connect with the audience. They are given zero character development and its hard to feel anything for these characters. Liam Neeson is the bad guy, Charlize Theron is the love interest and Giovanni Ribisi is the dopey friend. There are your generic characters for A Million Ways to Die in the West.
I know some people may say “Who cares about the characters? I just want to laugh.” I get those statements, but it’s hard to laugh at character you don’t really like. It’s even harder to laugh when they jokes are not funny – which is the case in A Million Ways to Die in the West. MacFarlane’s brilliant humor which resides in the gutter is out-of-place in the old West setting. All the irreverent humor we are accustomed to with MacFarlane is forced to be limited with the Western theme. Plus, how many jokes can pull out of 1880s life expectancy? We get it! People died all the time in the old West. A Million Ways to Die in the West is more violent than it is funny with its gunfire and killer ice. You’re right, Albert Stark, the American West is a terrible place and time – just like this film.
MacFarlane even resorts to mustache and multiple poop jokes to try to save A Million Ways to Die in the West, but it’s just not humorous. MacFarlane should have cleaned up the poop and added something else to this lame Genre Buster. A heart. We fell in love with Ted because we loved seeing the bromance between a man and his magical bear. We wanted to hang out with those guys and cared about what happened to them. I couldn’t give damn about any of the characters in A Million Ways to Die in the West. I hate to compare this film to Ted, but when you have a certain brand of style in your work like MacFarlane, it’s going to happen. Just ask Kevin Smith, Edgar Wright and Tarantino. MacFarlane just bit off more than he could chew trying to make a Genre Buster out of a Western and a comedy. It just doesn’t go together.
Overall, I give A Million Ways to Die in the West 1.5 out of 4 stars.
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