Overview: Seth MacFarlane moves from behind the camera to in front of it in this western parody. Universal Pictures; 2014; Rated R; 116 minutes.
The Good: As someone who cannot stand Family Guy, I was pleasantly surprised by 2012’s Ted. I was once again surprised by A Million Ways to Die in the West as there are a lot of truly funny jokes in the movie. In particular, the gags related to the title are wonderful. There is a musical number that is a complete earworm (led by Neil Patrick Harris, of course), an amusing drug trip, and some enjoyable cameos. The acting is spot-on. Charlize Theron is likeable as the gunslinging love interest, Liam Neeson is a perfect dastardly villain, and Neil Patrick Harris plays a smarmy, moustachioed douchebag in a way that only he can. Seth MacFarlane always seems awkward on camera, but he knows it and that’s part of his character, so it works. He also has fairly good chemistry with Theron, which is important for a movie that ends up being a romantic comedy … sort of.
The Bad: If a movie can have bipolar disorder, this one does. Sometimes it wants audiences to care about the lead character’s growing self-esteem; other times it just wants them to laugh at Sarah Silverman’s cavernous vagina. While I can appreciate the element of surprise, it’s a very weird movie and not in a good way. Somebody at some point should have edited the script.
The Painfully Dragged Out: Speaking of editing, there is no reason I can fathom that A Million Ways to die in the West needed to be two hours long. I was ready to give it a better rating about three quarters through when I thought it was about to end. Then it didn’t… for another half hour. While some people don’t enjoy Seth MacFarlane’s glib onscreen persona, I’m okay with it; however, this movie makes it clear that he would be better served not directing himself. There’s nobody to tell him no, and that’s always a bad thing (see: George Lucas). Pacing is a tremendous problem, and it’s a problem that could have been avoided.
Overall: A Million Ways to Die in the West is solidly okay. If you’re in the mood to relax and have a few laughs for two hours, it won’t disappoint. If you’ve been waiting for the next Blazing Saddles, keep waiting.