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'A Millions Ways to Die in the West' is no 'Blazing Saddles' or even 'Ted'

A Million Ways to Die in the West movie poster
Universal Pictures

A Million Ways to Die In the West

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There is a lie you may be seeing on TV or the Internet very soon. It’s in regard to the new Seth MacFarlane movie, “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” The lie will come from a movie critic when they will declare, “It’s better than ‘Blazing Saddles!’” or something to that extent. Here’s the truth, it’s not! What you are likely reading is a quote from a someone who is hoping that their quote winds up on an advertisement somewhere, not realizing that their name will be written on an unreadable font to the naked eye.

A Million Ways to Die in the West” takes place in Arizona in 1882. Albert (MacFarlane) is a sheep farmer and a coward too. He obsesses on how there are so many ways to die in the West to his two friends, Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) and his girlfriend Ruth, (Sarah Silverman). After he is dumped by his girlfriend, he feels there is nothing left for him in his old town, but before he can leave he meets a new woman, Anna (Charlize Theron) who can possibly change his whole life around if the most notorious outlaw in the land, Clinch (Liam Neeson) doesn’t kill him first.

Ted” was a great surprise from Seth MacFarlane. It was real funny, it was “out there”, had good characters played by good actors and even had a little heart thrown in for good measure. “A Million Ways to Die in the West” has almost none or very little of that. Yes, it is funny, but not as much as you would expect. The laughs do not come at you one right after another, it is more like there is one here and one there, depending on your sense of humor.

The only noteworthy performance in the movie is from Charlize Theron. She is the only one who actually “acts.” Everyone else feels like a two-dimensional character that could be portrayed in “Family Guy.” You would think with people like Ribisi and Neeson that there would be better performances, but either MacFarlane did not flesh their characters out well enough in his script or failed to properly direct them. Oddly, in her past roles, Sarah Silverman has usually played the straight man, but she pretty much plays herself in this movie and is the only other noteworthy person of interest.

The basic concept of the comedy stems from "A Million Ways to Die in the West" is that it takes place in the 19th Century, but everyone speaks like they do today. It's a good idea and it should have worked better. Part of the problem is that it does not run smoothly. A number of scenes you may have seen in some of the early trailers did not make the final cut (don't you hate that). So you can add editing as a problematic element too.

When Seth MacFarlane put out "Ted" some people were expecting some kind of extension of his television shows, but in movie form, but they got so much more than that. That fear is realized with "A Million Ways to Die in the West." There is even a musical number in the movie much like one you might see in on "Family Guy." Perhaps lightning will strike twice when "Ted 2" comes out, but in the meantime audiences just get another disappointing summer movie fare. It is rated R for strong crude and sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug material.