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Movie review: ‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’, 6.8 out of 10

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A Million Ways to Die In the West

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6.8 out of 10

A Million Ways to Die in the West” is exactly what you would expect from writer/director/star Seth MacFarlane, a raunchy comedy with plenty of laughs but not a whole lot of flow or substance.

Any spoilers will be clearly marked so you can avoid reading them if you so choose.

A Million Ways to Die in the Westopens in Baltimore on May 30, 2014.

The Good

If you like raunchy, rated R comedies, then you will find plenty of laughs in this film. MacFarlane has made a name for himself in the comedy world after writing and lending his voice to some hilarious, edgy animated TV shows (“Family Guy”, “American Dad!”). Since then he has crept into films with the successful “Ted” from 2012. This time around he not only writes and directs the movie, but he also stars in full flesh and blood. Only time will tell if the world needs to see him on screen to appreciate his work. But, you can be certain of some good laughs with this latest MacFarlane project.

MacFarlane seems to make friends quite easily in Hollywood. What this means for “A Million Ways” is a great cast that compliments each other well and some really good cameo appearances. Many comedies, including this one, use cameos as a way to reignite the audience when the flow seems to get stale. MacFarlane timed these cameos well and they certainly got the audience back into the movie. It just seems that these actors enjoy working with him.

At times, Seth MacFarlane feels a lot like a modern day Mel Brooks. To even be mentioned as a similarity to that master is a huge compliment. There are plenty of moments in “A Million Ways” that remind you of the genius that was Brooks. But there are a couple things that take that correlation and almost break it up entirely.

The Bad

First of all, Mel Brooks may have used very edgy comedy with some foul language and adult material, but he never took it to the level MacFarlane does. To say MacFarlane likes “bathroom humor” would be putting it mildly. A few quick jokes in this realm can be quite funny and break up monotony. But living there is just not a good idea. Even though it may be too early to tell, another big difference between these two talented writer/director/stars is the choice of roles. Mel seemed to always select a supporting role for himself; a place he could pop onto the screen, tell a few jokes, and then slip away for a while. That worked perfectly for him and he was a genius when it came time to cast his own role. MacFarlane did not carry this lead role very well. He was never terrible, but he was never great either. Perhaps he should take a page out of Brooks’s book and pick a smaller role next time.

“A Million Ways” is also very long. Most comedies in this area run 85 to 100 minutes. MacFarlane’s latest tips the scales at nearly 120. And there are some very obvious scenes that could have used some more editing; primarily, the scenes developing the love story. That part of the story was necessary to keep the narrative going. But we didn’t need anywhere near that much. MacFarlane needs to learn to keep his comedies more like sprints rather than marathons if he wants to keep his fans faithful for the length of his career.

And this REALLY bugged me:
[POSSIBLE CAMEO SPOILER TO ANY REALLY SAVVY MOVIEGOERS – name not given]
Why, why, why would you set your western in 1882 (with no particular reason for it) and then have a cameo that should have been set in 1885? It just doesn’t make any sense. Just set the film in 1885.
[END SPOILER]

The Bottom Line

“A Million Ways to Die in the West” delivers exactly what you would expect from Seth MacFarlane. The movie has plenty of laughs, but relies heavily on crude, “bathroom” humor. The running time kills the flow as the story gets bogged down by the love angle and scenes that just run on too long. This is a pretty average rated R, raunchy comedy. If you enjoy this type of movie, you will get enough out of this one to justify your time. You absolutely do not need to spend theater money on it though. There are far better choices as we are almost into summer movie season.

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