Friday, May 30, 2014

A Million Ways to Die in the West Movie Review

Seth MacFarlane hides stars in A Million Ways to Die in the West

10 Ways to Ruin a Movie

For the record, I consider Seth MacFarlane a genius. His animated sitcom Family Guy ranks right up there with I Love Lucy, Three's Company and Seinfeld as the funniest shows in television history. In terms of creativity (take that Simpsons!) it has no equal. That said, such a high opinion comes with great expectations... most of which MacFarlane fails to come close to matching in A Million Ways to Die in the West, a cinematic ego stroke... if ever I saw one. So frustrating in fact, that I'm dropping my standard review format in favor of a play on words.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: Seth MacFarlane directs, produces, co-writes and plays the role of the cowardly sheep farmer Albert in A Million Ways to Die in the West. After Albert backs out of a gunfight, his fickle girlfriend leaves him for another man. When a mysterious and beautiful woman rides into town, she helps him find his courage and they begin to fall in love. But when her husband, a notorious outlaw, arrives seeking revenge, the farmer must put his newfound courage to the test. Starring alongside MacFarlane are Oscar winner Charlize TheronLiam Neeson, Amanda SeyfriedGiovanni RibisiSarah Silverman and Neil Patrick Harris. MacFarlane reunites many of the filmmakers behind Universal and MRC's hit film Ted including Scott Stuber (Bluegrass Films) and Jason Clark who produce, and Wellesley Wild and Alec Sulkin who co-wrote the script.

Now, on with the countdown...

10. "Pride comes before a fall," and if MacFarlane isn't careful, he may get laughed out of Hollywood. How do you go from "playing" a teddy bear to grabbing top billing over folks like Oscar winner Charlize Theron and Liam Neeson? When your own movie poster boasts, "From the guy who brought you ted," instead of your name, are you really that famous?

9. Embrace racism with a tacky Runaway Slaves game (where the object of the game is to shoot black people... for prizes, no less) then try to wash it all away with yet another cameo appearance during the end credits. When he first sees it, Albert (MacFarlane) comments, "That's a bit unnecessary." No Seth, it's racism... especially in a movie without any black people. It might fly in a cartoon, but not on the big screen.

8. It's not easy finding two hours of material. 116 minutes is way too long for a movie that has less than a dozen laughs at its disposal. Airplane!? 87 minutes. Blazing Saddles? 95. Caddyshack? 98. If they didn't top 100, why on Earth would you?

7. Speaking of laughs, haven't we seen enough animal appendages, misplaced sex fluids and piles of shit to last a lifetime? Creative writing usually works best when you're actually creative. Perhaps it's time to go back and watch a few episodes of Family Guy for motivation?

6. Running jokes should be funny. The Ribisi/Silverman routine is worth a chuckle at first, but a dozen times later? Oh I get it... She's a hooker, but she won't sleep with her dumb boyfriend. Ha ha.

5. Dick Van Dyke was a great physical comedian. So was John Ritter. MacFarlane's falls look painfully insecure, rather than funny. Even worse, you can see them coming a mile away. Not amused.

4. Speaking of insecurity, MacFarlane tips his hat to Adam Sandler (boy, the Razzies are gonna have a hard time choosing between Blended and this movie) by pairing up romantically with both Amanda Seyfried and Charlize Theron. How "original."

3. Did Edward (Ribisi) just warn a drunk Albert, 'Dude, you shouldn't really drink and horse.' What's next? Why did the chicken cross the road?

2. Comparisons to Blazing Saddles are inevitable, and MacFarlane & co. take painstaking measures to copy its look; but even an all-star cast can't make lazy humor look or sound funny. Where's Mel Brooks when you really need him?

1. Albert's neurotic, know-it-all routine (specifically about dying) should be added to his own list of ailments that could kill you. MacFarlane talks so fast sometimes, you wonder if he's even from the same planet as the actors around him. Not convinced? Just ask Albert. 'Did he hear all the smart stuff I said?' Yes Albert, he did. Maybe it's just not as smart as you thought it would be.

Lest you think I'm being overly critical, A Million Ways to Die in the West does have a few good moments...

Albert explains Parkinson's disease to Louise (Seyfried) as, 'Just another way God shows us how much he cares about us.' That's hilarious, and I'm a Roman Catholic.

Gilbert Gottfried pops up as history's worst Abraham Lincoln impersonator, but I couldn't stop laughing. It's Gilbert Gottfried for crying out loud!

While his China man joke bombs, I couldn't help but laugh at Albert's more sarcastically observant, 'Why are the Indians so mad?'

Finally, major props to Neil Patrick Harris who delights as the town's unofficial king of moustaches, and Albert's primary nemesis. 'Can you give Louise wrapped candies? Can you?' No Neil, he can't. You win partner.

Obviously, this kind of disparity (funny vs. not funny) isn't going to grade well. I could be nice, and say it's about average; but someone as smart and talented as MacFarlane is obliged to do better. 231 near-perfect episodes of Family Guy commands it.