A Million Ways to Die in the West is Seth MacFarlane’s second feature film, with the hugely successful Ted debuting in 2012.  While Ted worked on multiple levels, A Million Ways to Die in the West fails to move past its singular jokes, and presents the audience with a story that is surprisingly flat.  The premise and plot are strong, with the potential for huge comedic payoffs throughout.  Instead, audiences are left with a one-dimensional comedy with laughs too spread out to be considered truly funny.  With comedies, I along with many others are often willing to look past weak plots and poor character development if the movie mask you laugh.  A Million Ways to Die in the West unfortunately is dragged down by the plot, and unable to fully materialize what is an incredibly hilarious premise.

A-Million-Ways-to-Die-in-the-West-2A Million Ways to Die in the West is set in 1882 Arizona, and the midwestern conditions are less than ideal (a fact that’s not only in the title, but repeatedly and unsuccessfully brought up throughout).  Seth MacFarlane stars as Albert Stark, a less than courageous and widely unsuccessful sheep farmer.  When Albert is dumped by his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried), he challenges her new lover to a duel, which he is not only unprepared but incredible frightened for.  Stark meets the new-in-town Anna Leatherwood (Charlize Theron), who trains him to get ready for his duel.  While training, Albert and Anna begin to fall in love, with Albert completely unaware her husband is Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), the most notorious outlaw in the West is coming to town any day.

While the premise of A Million Ways to Die in the West is one that could be hilariously expanded upon, the plot falters as Albert and Anna spend a majority of the movie falling in love.  And while I agree many stories need the love angle, A Million Ways to Die in the West stumbles because of it.  Albert is the only character to have any development throughout the course of the film, while every other character is stuck as a one-dimensional piece to aid MacFarlane.  For example, every time you see Sarah Silverman’s Ruth (a Christian prostitute) , she makes the same joke about how she doesn’t believe in pre-martial relations, while having relations with 10 men on just a slow day.  We get it.  It’s not only Silverman’s character, but most of the actors are poorly used, and not properly utilized.  Twenty minutes into the film, you know exactly how it’s going to play out.  This is especially bad with comedies, because he audience is never off balance and knows how the jokes will play out.

a-million-ways-to-die-in-the-west-11There are of course funny moments scattered throughout, unfortunately most of them were ruined by the previews and commercials.  I get the fact that studios need to spread the word and let people know what their films are about, but they don’t need to ruin the entire plot.  I’ve noticed that especially with comedies, the trailers show entirely too many off the important punchlines and joke, and even if you only caught the trailer once, you remember what you saw.  This was a huge problem for A Million Ways to Die in the West.  It certainly had its moments, but they were already spoiled by previews.


(No Seth MacFarlane project is complete without a musical number)

Fans of Family Guy or any of director Seth MacFaarlane’s work, may find enough laughs in A Million Ways to Die in the West to move past its flaws, and just enjoy the movie.  For me, there wasn’t enough in MacFarlane’s second feature to keep me laughing or even interested for that matter.  MacFarlane is a genuinely funny and possibly comedic genius, but with his newest film, the project seemed rushed and not properly thought-out.  It was a shallow film that wasted all the potential with an established cast and crew at the helm.  A Million Ways to Die in the West is the type of film that you stumble across at 3:00 in the morning on cable and thoroughly enjoy.  Skip the theater and wait to catch it on Demand, maybe after having  a couple drinks.

Here’s the trailer below, but I suggest not watching it (It spoils a lot of the best jokes).  But, it’s here if you do want to watch it.  You probably shouldn’t though.  It’s available below but, try to avoid it if possible.

A Million Ways to Die in the West stars Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Giovani Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Neil Patrick Harris and is in theaters now.

About the Author

Peter Towe
Peter Towe
A graduate of UMASS Boston, I have successfully put off getting a "real" job, and continue to watch, produce, review, and obsess over movies. I lived in Boston while I completed my degree, and now live in Chicago trying the improv thing.