HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: A Million Ways to Die in the West
HTS Overall Score:80
Seth McFarlane has made himself rich, let me rephrase that, dirty STINKING rich, off of being a nerd. This is the same guy who has brought us the irreverent “Family Guy”, “American Dad”, “The Cleveland Show”, “Ted” and a host of other funny material. Kind of like Seth Rogen, you know what you’re going to get with Seth McFarlane behind the helm of a movie or show, lots of stupid fun, with plenty of poop and pee jokes for good measure. So color me SHOCKED when I decide to see this in the theaters and walk up to the front of the line only to hear a couple in their 80s say “I’d like two tickets to see that new western”. I could only stop dead in my tracks and look them up and down in hopes that they knew what they were getting into. For Seth McFarlane doesn’t make a western, he makes an episode of Family guy on steroids in the shape of western, and I can only assume this lovely couple doesn’t know who Seth is and what type of movie he’ll be making. I get into the theater only to see that at least HALF of the audience is in their 60s all the way up to their 80’s. My buddy and I turned to each other and echoed the same sentiment. “oooooooooooooooh, these people are in for a wild ride”.
Our plucky young hero, one Albert (Seth McFarlane) by name, is a pacifistic young sheep herder, only interested in taking care of his girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfried). When Louise breaks his heart and hangs him out to dry, Albert is broken hearted and has to come to grips with his feelings of hatred towards the old west. Out there, everything just wants to kill you. People die at the fair, inside town, in their own beds, from illness, from plague, from bullets and that’s only counting the first 15 minutes of the film. The old west is SCARY and Albert wants out. Even his best friend and confidant, Edward (Giovani Ribisi), can’t cheer him up. This all changes when a young woman named Anna comes into town and sparks something in him. Anna is kind, sweet and stunningly beautiful, and seemingly interested in the cowardly sheep herder (I don’t know what it is, but Seth McFarlane really has a thing for sheep).
Anna, as with all mysterious people in the first act of a film, has a secret. She’s actually the wife of the famed villain, Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), who’s been sent to their small town to lay low while he’s cooling down from a big heist. Albert begins to fall for her, even though he’s still a little bit hung up on Louise, and frustrated by the fact that she’s moved on to the most loathed dandy in town, Foy, a snot nosed and arrogant businessman in the mustache cream trade. He’s wealthy, handsome and a jerk, basically the exact opposite of Albert, but this is driving him crazy. Anna, against her better judgment, starts to fall for poor Albert as well, drawn to his sweetness and being the exact OPPOSITE of her cruel and vindictive husband/slave master. Realizing that he’s never going to get any self-respect on his own, Anna trains Albert for a duel with Foy, in a play to gain back some dignity. As the two train, they come closer together and realize that holding on to what they THOUGHT they wanted, was actually causing them to be miserable.
Of course, what western is complete without a REAL villain, and sooner rather than later, Clinch Leatherwood shows up looking for Anna only to find out that she’s not exactly as devoted to him as he had thought. Cruel as can be and vindictive as anything, Clint searches for Albert and lays waste to the surrounding area in an effort to exact revenge on the now rather plucky hero in a duel to the death.
“A Million Ways to Die in the West” is the first time that Seth McFarlane has actually PHYSICALLY stepped into a film or show as the main character. Usually he’s voicing a billion different characters and standing behind the screen, but I’ve never seen him actually go for a full dramatic role before and it is met with rather mixed results. I really love a lot of Seth’s stuff. I’ve watched “Family Guy” for years and “American Dad” is pure gold, and let’s not even get into how much I ADORE “Ted”. I’ve watched that movie a billion times and I have to say that Seth McFarlane works best with rapid fire comedy that is done in short bursts and moves on to the next gag. That’s why “Ted” worked so well. The movie was basically a bunch of vignettes that moved fast from one to the next and got you to the end of the film. Here, Seth takes a whole new approach and actually creates a full dramatic comedy. The first part of the film is about as funny as you can get, with stupid jokes coming a mile a minute after the death toll that old west racks up. People die from the most random things and usually inappropriately as well. It’s when Anna and Albert start getting into each other that the film starts to waver, the funny stops being as funny and the movie tries to actually have a heart and drama to it. That just doesn’t work as well for Seth and the movie stays in that rut until the Peyote dream sequence where things get back to the good old fashioned bizarre craziness that Mr. McFarlane can pull off.
I love Seth as a voice actor, but as a main character he just doesn’t cut it for me as well, especially when he’s playing a mousy character like Albert. The real joy in the characters is the supporting cast, as he certainly knows how to pick them. Liam Neeson as Clinch Leatherwood is spot on perfect, and it’s funny to actually hear Liam’s natural accent for once, since he does such a good job at suppressing it in his other films. Charlize is decent as Anna, but Amanda Seyfriend, Neil Patrick Harris, and Giovani Ribisi steal the stage by a good margin. NPH is pure comedy gold in just about everything he does, so it’s no shock when every scene with his is downright funny as can be. The man knows how to improvise and role with the punches so well that you can’t help but like/hate him at the same time. Amanda has this innate ability to act like an airhead, so her portrayal of the dim witted and vain Louise was match made in heaven (the only person who can pull off the dumb, vapid blonde as well as she can is Hayden Panettiere).
Rated R for crude and sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug material
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=28081[/img]The 2.40:1 AVC encoded transfer for “A Million Ways to Die in the West” is quite stellar, boasting a solid color palette and a great attention to detail. Seth McFarlane shot the movie with a rather sweeping and scenery rich way, so the beautiful western locations looks stunning in hi definition. Shot digitally, the movie is squeaky clean and crystal clear, with no signs of digital noise or any artifacting. Fine detail is excellent and the wide angle shots look just as nice, showcasing the drab and bleak looking environment. The colors area tad muted, as the film tries to portray a rather glum atmosphere, but they do look well balanced and accurate. There are a few moments where we’re brought out of that muted color levels, especially with the peyote dream sequence that is the absolute highlight of the film, but for the most part it stays fairly constant. Black levels are beautiful and I didn’t notice any crush or other aberrations that plague that particular area of shooting.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=28089[/img]Seth McFarlane doesn’t do your normal comedy, but rather has fun throwing in everything and kitchen sink, so rest assured that the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track isn’t some dialogue driven track devoid of many of the more boisterous moments in other films. Aggressive and immersive, Seth pulls no punches as he does a fine balance of calm, dialogue centric scenes mixed in with gunfire and action. The surrounds don’t stop as they are constantly filled with the ambient noises of the desert, a bar room brawl, or the singing and dancing numbers (it isn’t a Seth McFarlane film unless there’s at least ONE song and dance in the movie). LFE is punchy and tight, adding some nice low end to the movie in terms of hoof beats, door slamming and like. Also coming in with impressive power when a colt .45 is let out to play. I’m quite impressed with the audio presentation, and it certainly rounds out the specs nicely.
• Alternate Opening
• Alternate Ending
• Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes
• Gag Reel
• Once Upon a Time, in a Different West
• Feature Commentary with Director/Producer/Co-Writer Seth MacFarlane, Co-Writers and Executive Producers Alec Sulkin & Wellesley Wild and Star Charlize Theron (Extended cut only)
“A Million Ways to Die in the West” is a decent rental for sure, and the extended cut actually helps the flow of the movie a bit, in my opinion. However, it’s no “Ted” by a long shot. The film is funny, and slightly boring at the same time, but still an entertaining watch and made even funnier by the large string of cameos that show up in the film (and there is certainly quite a few). The audio and video are excellent although the extras are a tad light, so fans of the movie should have no problem picking his up. If you’re a fan of Seth McFarlane and haven’t see “A Million Ways to Die in the West” yet, then I’d suggest a simple rental, as it’s not his best work. I’d still recommend the movie for a Friday night and some popcorn, as it’s certainly fun for at least a viewing.
Starring: Seth McFarlane, Liam Neeson, Charlize Theron, Sarah Silverman
Directed by: Seth McFarlane
Written by: Alec Sulkin, Seth McFarlane
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish DTS 5.1
Runtime: 116 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: October 7th 2014
Buy A Million Ways to Die in the West Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Rent It
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