There he is. Seth MacFarlane. Creator of Family Guy and director of Ted. Love him or hate him, there he is. It’s almost impossible to go into A Million Ways to Die in the West without strong feelings one way or the other on MacFarlane’s humor. That’s as clear cut as it gets. If you enjoy his brand of observational gross-out humor, then this is the movie for you. If you think Family Guy is a scourge upon the Earth, then all this movie will do is make you angrier.
Personally, I often find MacFarlane’s trademark humor hilarious. Read into that what you will. Family Guy, while doltish and moronic, is especially in tune with what makes a great gag. That’s what A Million Ways to Die in the West tries to do. At times the jokes hang there, in the air, without many acknowledging their existence. Other gags, the ones that really hit, are perfectly timed, and have most people rolling in their seats with laughter.
A Million Ways to Die in the West is MacFarlane’s attempt at providing all of us with an R-rated, raunchy comedy western because we’ve all been asking for that, right? Perhaps that’s why he chose to do this project. I mean, how many of us were hoping for a comedy about an irreverent teddy bear and his adolescent-at-heart owner when he came out with Ted? MacFarlane likes to push people’s buttons. He wants people to laugh, but if all you do is end up getting mad, I think he enjoys that just as much.
Albert (MacFarlane) is a man living in the wrong time. He appears to be the only one that is self-aware enough to understand that the American West is the absolute worst place to live, ever. True to the movie’s name, Albert proceeds to list off everything that can kill you. Not a million ways, but you get the idea. Living a long, healthy life isn’t something that’s going to happen if you’re living in the desert of Arizona in 1882.
Once the gags start coming, they rarely relent. Some are much funnier than others. Many have been spoiled in the trailers, including one extremely funny, modern pop-culture movie reference that is the movie’s shining comedic jewel.
Albert’s interaction with his distant and belligerent live-in father is, by far, the best comedy the movie has to offer. All too often the screenplay gets mired down in setting up a story involving a ruthless killer named Clinch (Liam Neeson). It bogs down with some of the sappier, soggy love story stuff between Albert and Anna (Charlize Theron). It feels weird to pick on a movie because it’s trying to build a story. It’s not something I make a habit out of. It’s just that the story gets in the way of the funny and adds to an already overly long running time.
But I have to say that Seth MacFarlane gets it. A Million Ways to Die in the West is funny more often than not. Those who purport that it doesn’t contain a single laugh have no room in their sensitive sense of humor for well-crafted lowbrow humor (yes, there is such a thing). Sure, there may be a few too many fart and poop jokes. It’s not the perfect comedy. It’s not Blazing Saddles. However, if you’re looking for a raunchier Three Amigos, then this is your movie.