Movie Review: ‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’

Director: Seth MacFarlane

Cast: A 40 year old with a fauxhawk, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Neil Patrick Harris.

‘Story’: A cowardly sheep farmer in the Old West loses his girlfriend to a local businessman. He then meets another woman who teaches him to toughen up. She’s also secretly the wife of the deadliest outlaw in the state.

Review: If you are one of the many Seth MacFarlane detractors out there, this movie will do nothing to change your opinion. If, however, you are a fan of his ‘comedy’ attempts you’ll likely to come out thinking ‘it wasn’t as good as Ted‘. But perhaps you haven’t heard of him at all, in which case you’ll find this movie to be bland, pointless and predictable.


You’ll discover the most punchable face in the west. That’s something.

This is a bad movie. Not bad in the sense of The Room, which is fun because of how ridiculous it is. Nor is it bad in the sense of Passion of the Christ, which is stupid and offensive. This is bad in the sense of a seven year old filming his own stand-up comedy routine but somehow made it with millions of dollars and several Oscar winning characters. MacFarlane, as director, writer and leading actor, clearly has more resources than talent.

What exactly makes this movie such a let down? Well, MacFarlane has all the writing and directing talent of a rank amateur. The script is a disjointed mess. Characters play a large role in the first act and then disappear entirely for a full hour of screen time. It genuinely feels as though McFarlane is mentally incapable of keeping track of more than three people at a time. None of the characters have any depth or development. In fact, most of them don’t use more than one joke. Take Gionvanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman’s characters, a young couple who are saving themselves for marriage in spite of her being a very busy prostitute. Every now and then they reappear, repeat a variation of the gag, and then vanish, sometimes for more than an hour. these aren’t characters – they’re the people hanging around the set. The movie has two narrative plot threads, neither of which come within twenty yards of each other. We deal with one, then the other. This is really lazy stuff.

In terms of directing, the movie is bland, flat, badly paced and downright dull. That is all.

Ok, so it’s not not the next great Western. Nor is it supposed to be. It’s supposed to be a comedy. So long as it is funny, who gives a fuck, right?


We’re waiting…

Sadly, MacFarlane does not understand how comedy works. Especially is a movie with a story. A good joke has a set-up, it builds to a conclusion before delivering the kick. MacFarlane deals exclusively in punchlines. All that happens in this movie is that people deliver the end of the joke without any build up to it. Going back to the example of Ribisi and Silverman’s characters from before, this should be really funny – she spends all day doing depraved acts but they’re a really sweet couple waiting to get married. This could have a great build-up if you made it unclear whether or not Ribisi knew exactly what was happening. People could ask him questions about it but his answers are naive enough that we’re never sure if he gets it. Instead it’s all spelt out in their first scene, with Ribisi agreeing to bring her back from their picnic for her next client who wanted anal. That’s the punchline coming before the joke, and every gag does it.

MacFarlane’s character is a real anomaly. Unlike everyone else in the movie, who are acting like they’re in a Western movie, he seems to have a modern perspective on the situation. He references how racist people are at the time (before he himself makes racist jokes throughout the movie), he references how different the clothing was at the time, and he references how strange it is using outhouses. About 90% of the ‘jokes’ in the movie revolve around pointing out how different things were in the Old West. There aren’t any real comedy around them, it’s just ‘things were different’. The other 10% is racist, homophobic dross or a CGI sheep penis that looks oddly human (since when did ewes have dicks anyway?).

million ways to die in the west

“Can you believe what we wear in the Old West?” – what they actually say.

Then there’s the cameos. In one scene a cowboy gets shot and it’s Ryan Reynolds. That’s the entire scene. When Christopher Lloyd turns up as Doc Brown there was a fleeting moment when we thought MacFarlane’s character was meant to be from the future, hence his strangely modern perspective, but instead it’s just showing the audience something they recognise in the hope of generating a guffaw.

Sadly the movie will do well, and MacFarlane will likely do something else in the future. It can trade on the success of MacFarlane’s other work, and has a surprisingly good cast – really, weirdly good. There are a couple of Oscar’s there, and some downright respected performers. I’m going to assume that MacFarlane has some really good blackmail material on each of them. Even naturally charismatic comedians like Neil Patrick Harris and Sarah Silverman can’t make the material work. Instead they get to be part of an horribly uncomfortable sex scene involving Amanda Seyfried sucking on Harris’ moustache. It’s not funny…it just keeps going.

It’s a bland, dull and unfunny movie. Go watch Blazing Saddles instead.

Rating: Fuck you, you don’t qualify enough as a movie to get one.