Seth McFarlane’s first feature film Ted was a great little film. Not perfect, but it latched onto a story trope we’d seen before (grown man needs to grow out of his immature ways, is held back by immature childhood best friend) and took its to its logical extreme (best friend is his childhood toy) and the result was both R-Rated hilarious and heartfelt but without getting too bogged down in “ugh, I’ve seen this before.” It didn’t hurt either that McFarlane’s voice performance as Ted was inspired as though he was getting every r-rated joke he’d been wanting to do on family Guy out all at once.
McFarlane’s second feature takes aim at the Wild West. It’s still R-rated and it’s still a comedy but where Ted managed to break the mold A Million Ways To Die In The West stays pretty firmly in its mold. That’s not to say it’s not funny. I laughed a bunch of times. Not enough times though, and the rest of the time I was bored.
The question you may be asking yourself is “are all the good jokes in the trailer?” Sorry folks, the answer is yes, most of them are, and a few –such as the giant ice block crushing a man– aren’t as funny in the film. Not sure whether this is because I’ve seen it a million times already or because it kind of comes up out of nowhere in the movie but either way it’s not as good.
There’s a bunch of problems but there are two it suffers from the worst. First, most of the supporting characters are either flat stereotypes or one joke characters. Sarah Silverman, for example, plays the prostitute girlfriend of Giovanni Ribisi. She constantly refuses to sleep with him “because they’re Christians” but eagerly leaps up to fuck any other man in town who will pay for it. This joke was kinda funny one time but it comes up nearly every time she’s on-screen, and she shows up a lot. Giovanni Ribisi’s joke is that’s exactly the sort of slightly creepy man-child he is in every comedy role he takes on and that’s worn pretty thin too.
The other, more major problem is that the rest of the jokes aren’t really funny. Most of them are just Seth McFarlane walking into a situation and basically saying “holy shit the old west sure is racist!” and that gets old really fast. There’s also not one but two scene where he takes drugs and freaks out. There’s also a scene where Neil Patrick Harris takes a huge shit in a mans hat, and one where Seth McFarlane is hiding under some sheep and gets peed on in which we literally see a sheep penis. This isn’t just not funny, it’s dated. This might have been funny 15 years ago but now it’s just.. ugh.
What few laughs there are come mostly in the third act and it’s a long time to wait. During my screening there were long stretches of silence. This is supposed to be a comedy remember.
Part of the problem is McFarlane himself. He constantly laments living in the west as though he were stuck there after some kind of time travel mishap but even when the movie (which he wrote and directed) has a perfectly good opportunity make that happen and go in a more interesting direction it doesn’t.
The only two people in the movie that are really any good are Charlize Theron and Liam Neeson. Theron’s performance is nice and natural and though she gets some of the “holy shit the old west sucks” jokes from her they seem like they come from an “I dont get why we do this” place rather than McFarlane’s “holy shit the past is terrible” place. Neeson, who plays the meanest gunfighter in the territory seems to be just having a good time, revelling in being the bad guy (and getting to be Irish for a change).
I’m sorry if it seems like I’m spoiling some of the jokes but I’m about to recommend that you don’t see this movie anyway. There’s only one joke that I actually really liked (and honestly remember laughing at) and it wasn’t even a laugh joke, more of a chuckle.