It's an action filled weekend at the theatres as a documentary about the dangers of living on the frontier of the wild, wild west opens today. Ok, not really but "A Million Ways To Die In The West" is an action filled comedy with bits and jokes that range from inspired to a little lame throughout a narrative that takes just a little too long to unfold.
After a cowardly sheep farmer (Seth McFarlane)backs out of a gunfight, his fickle girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) leaves him for another man (Neil Patrick Harris). When a mysterious and beautiful woman (Charlize Theron) rides into town, she helps him find his courage so he can win back the heart of the woman he loves. But when her husband (Liam Neeson), a notorious outlaw arrives in town and is less then pleased with this new love affair he sets off to seek revenge and the farmer must put his newfound courage to the test for the sake of true love.
It's not a perfect comedy by any means as writer/director/star Seth McFarlane could use an editor, but when the jokes in "A Million Ways To Die In The West" land, they land incredibly well and it makes for a fun gut busting experience at the theatres.
With this being his second feature effort in the writer/director's chair, Seth McFarlane does make a few improvements on his story telling chops while still making some of the same mistakes as well. Shot in the outlands of Utah and New Mexico, McFarlane actually shows a pretty solid eye for when shooting on location and making it all as seem as 'Movie Western' authentic as humanly possible.
The good jokes and gags in this movie are actually bordering on great and they don't get dulled even when mixed in with some tired gross out jokes and groaners that McFarlane tends to fall in love with a little too much as they are scattered throughout this a-typical narrative. Nothing about this reinvents the wheel but he follows the classic story and he works within it pretty darn effectively as boy loses girl, boy meets new girl and learns his own self worth in the process of wooing the new girl and he uses the romantic rival as a warm up for when he has to confront actual danger and it makes for a half western and half goofy romantic comedy which actually sort of works thanks to some solid comedic work.
As much as he can come off as a smarmy self involved comic, Seth McFarlane's shtick actually does work incredibly well as the smart assed every man and in this context he works as a leading man and can easily carry a film. Charlize Theron as the new woman in town has underrated comedic chops and has excellent on screen chemistry with McFarlane it is a hell of a lot of fun to watch them together and we actually get invested in their relationship. Neil Patrick Harris makes a great comedic villain while Liam Neeson was phoning in as the actual villain and Amanda Seyfried actually kind of works as his vacuous ex-girlfriend. The great Sarah Silverman, Giovanni Ribisi and a plethora of fairly memorable cameos round out the cast but I was surprised as anyone when I saw how well McFarlane actually carried the movie.
At the end of the day, "A Million Ways To Die In The West" is exactly what you expect it to be, but it's a hell of a lot fun and worth a trip to the movies.
3 out of 5 stars.
"A Million Ways To Die In The West" is in theatres now, please check with local listings for show times.