Reviewed by Ken Carman
My list of westerns I really like: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Blazing Saddles.
Latest addition: A Million Ways to Die in the West
Sincerely, to me westerns are mostly a loathsome genre’ filled with obnoxious clichés, simplistic moral codes that are so simple they provide cover for immorality and racist, bigoted historical inaccuracies. Million Ways blows all that out of the beatific desert mirage pond, that is actually more like a rotting cesspool of fabrications, half truths and not truth at all-isms. Like the Earps and friends: who were no more heroic good guys than the Clantons.
Million Ways goes out of its way to expose the myths, the nonsense and make commentary on the tomfoolery that is foisted upon all but wiser souls via westerns. Life in the west back then really could suck. How does Million Ways “go out of its way?” Well, using typical Seth McFarlane bluntness that makes one chuckle, laugh and guffaw, like when he’s accused of not sheering his sheep and this sheep-sized ball of wool keeps bumping into a house. There are gross outs and bloody, shocking deaths that oddly can inspire the slightest snicker. It is not a movie for those who offend easily, especially those in love with westerns.
And where else are you going to see Charlize Theron stick a daisy in Liam Neeson’s butt? Or, as my wife Millie asked, “Was it really Liam’s butt?” Hollywood’s a funny place, I suppose, where one can have a resume which includes, “I was Liam Neeson’s stunt butt double.”
The surprises here are how well Charlize and Seth work together and how good Seth is. We all know his work in Ted and Family Guy. A brilliant voiceover artist only matched in national stature by the sadly deceased Mel Blanc, we’ve know his work for a long time. But other than questionable efforts hosting various awards this is the first time I’ve seen him not just step away from the microphone of invisibility offered by animation, but play a fictional character well. Note: Seth, like Charlize, is a character actor: he basically plays the same role with slight variations. Most actors are character actors. He’s not one of these actors who can switch roles like he does voices and be someone else so convincingly we have to ask, “Is that really…?”
The filming, the framing, the graphics are classic 50s/very early 60s Technicolor western-like. The jokes delivered from very subtle to a punch to the gut. Considering who scripted this, Seth and friends, that’s no surprise.
This is not a movie for kids. Other than rapid profanity, violence, allusions to sex and overboard grossness, it simply has too much for many parents to deal with… though not all. Discussion with your young one is advised: especially as to when one can, and can’t, refer to certain parts of the movie, use the language: if at all and attitudes which may offend.