A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
The trailers were a deep insight into exactly what Seth MacFarlane would dish up in his follow-up to the highly controversial “Ted”. From the TV snippets, cinematic preview and even the red band trailers, it was obvious that “A Million Ways To Die In The West” was going to be more of the same MacFarlane-oriented B-grade humour we have come accustomed to.
“A Million Ways To Die In The West”, once again starring Seth MacFarlane tells the story of a cowardly sheep farmer who is hunted by a vicious outlaw after rumour regarding his wife spreads across the town.
Albert (MacFarlane) is pursued by Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), an angry Scot with cruel intentions. Misogynistic and outright devilish, Leatherwood is the stereotypical western antagonist and is portrayed exceptionally well by Neeson. His screen time however is unfulfilling and disappointing. There wasn’t enough time for a solid development of character on his part. It seems that the lions share of exposure went to MacFarlane’s Albert (of course it would).
As far as the western narrative is concerned, it’s all rather formulaic. A nice touch and a brief moment that actually gave the film some hope were the opening credits.
The extensive landscape shots of the beautiful but barren American desert, interlaced with heroic and inspiring western music and 60’s-esque credits seemed to pay homage to the classics of the past 50 years….before it crudely satirises and ridicules these definitive genre epics (to put it lightly…)
It has various conventional elements of the western like: the outlaw, horseback conflicts, gunfights, standoffs, angry drunks, violence and of course, the desert, yet this really doesn’t feel at all like a western, it once again feels more or less like a MacFarlane skit-based slideshow that is connected poorly by a weak and unsubstantial plot.
Typically the protagonist in a western is a mysterious and equivocal figure that enters a town and must convince its citizens that he is in fact a hero by defeating the towns villain. The hero usually possesses a unique set of skills (insert Neeson “Taken” reference) of which he exhibits during the moments of conflict and tension. MacFarlane’s Albert is anything but the typical Western hero. He is cowardly, pathetic, poor and unskilled in many ways. On top of not believing Albert to be a hero in any way, it is more than obvious that we are in fact watching Seth MacFarlane in a cheap western outfit. There are no cosmetic alterations or character uniquenesses shown to convince the audience of a character being portrayed, it is 100% MacFarlane with limited to no effort demonstrated.
So how does “A Million Ways To Die In The West” compare to “Ted”? They are two completely different films and probably shouldn’t be compared, however its always interesting to see what has changed and what has carried over from a debutant director’s follow up film.
When discussing voices, in “Ted”, we heard Peter Griffin for a fair portion, whereas with “A Million Ways To Die In The West”, we get quite a lot of angry Brian Griffin and a fair dose of Glen Quagmire. The humour is more or less identical and the supporting roles really only seem to appear to make for a half-decent trailer.
Due to the bigger production value, the cast is more impressive this time around with the likes of Neil Patrick-Harris, Amanda Seyfried, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson and Sarah Silverman joining MacFarlane at various points.
Patrick-Harris, Seyfried and even Silverman’s characters all lacked heavily in presence, substance and once again, development. There was no connection to any of these characters and that more often than not boils down to a poor script.
Ultimately, “Ted” appeared to be a better film overall simply because of its thoroughness with character development. Sure, the smaller cast and more localised, personalised storyline allowed for this to be achieved with greater ease, but the overall engagement with story, character and narrative establishment was more potent in “Ted” compared to “A Million Ways To Die In The West”.
“A Million Ways To Die In The West” was never going to be a classic comedy, let alone a classic western. It was always going to be a cavalcade of second rate, shockingly crude, racist and sexist humour that MacFarlane is so infamously associated with. Not expecting much, not much was delivered. Attempting to be serious on too many occasions, “A Million Ways To Die In The West” tends to confuse itself between a comedy, a drama and an action-packed western. In the end, it becomes none of those; it is ultimately “Another Way To Make Millions in the U.S.”.