To this point in his career, aside from hosting the Oscars, Seth MacFarlane hasn’t had too much experience in front of the camera. To cast himself as the lead in his second feature film (the first being Ted) is a bold move – but it was a wise choice, as he’s charming, likeable and hilarious. The funnyman has made a face for himself; let’s hope he continues to star in more movies from here on out.
In A Million Ways to Die in the West, MacFarlane plays Albert Stark, a misfit in the wild frontier. While others are out shooting, robbing and fighting, Albert is doing his best to avoid it all. You see, he hates his life on the frontier. He works as a sheep farmer just to get away from all the ruckus that comes with The West. The only think keeping himself planted in his small town is the love of his life, the woman that he believes has lowered her standard for him, Louise (Amanda Seyfried). But when Louise realizes that he’s not as manly as the other brutes and mustached men in town, she dumps him.
Having lost his anchor, Albert decides to make a move to the coast. His last night in town, he takes his two best friends (Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman) out drinking. When a newcomer in town starts a wild bar fight, the good guy comes out in Albert and saves a damsel-in-distress, Anna (Charlize Theron), from becoming collateral damage. Albert and Anna immediately hit it off because of their identical pessimistic attitudes – they both hate the deadly frontier and want nothing more than to get away from it all. Even though they form a solid friendship, Albert’s self-deprecating mentality blinds him from the obvious chemistry they possess.
So, where’s the conflict? Well, it’s kind of all around. As the title suggests, staying alive in The West is a difficult task. Survival is a big one, especially when Albert opens his mouth and challenges Louise’s new boyfriend (Neil Patrick Harris) to a pistol fight on main street. Another involves a notorious gun-slinging outlaw (Liam Neeson) coming to town. And another revolves around Anna’s little secret (which is actually revealed to us early in the movie, but later for Albert).
As much as I really like MacFarlane’s feature live-action directorial debut Ted, I think he’s improved with A Million Ways. The jokes are funnier, tighter and more consistent. The characters are grounded in a stronger reality. The movie itself looks great, like an old western. A few cameos will go down in history as being some of the greatest. And MacFarlane himself completely works as a lead. He’s good on his own, but is great when paired alongside Theron. The two are perfect together, she being just as hilarious as he. Their chemistry is perfect.
Blazing Saddles is the only other comedic western that comes to mind. How does A Million Ways compare to that? Not quite as great, but still absolutely worthwhile. Take out most of the racist jokes from Blazing Saddles and replace them with raunchy sex jokes, and that’s what you’re getting with A Million Ways to Die in the West. If you can tolerate and find entertainment in absolutely crude comedies whose jokes and gags bring tears to your eyes, then don’t miss A Million Ways to Die in the West. For me, it’s the funniest comedy of the year (so far).
Photo credit: Universal Studios