A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014) Directed by Seth MacFarlane. With Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Amanda Seyfried and Neil Patrick Harris.
My girlfriend despises westerns; the bar fights, the dusty land, and how every western ever made has to end with a Mexican standoff. With that, she, like me, loved A Million Ways to Die in the West. Seth Macfarlane’s movie (he co-writes, directs and stars) is an open-ended love letter to the classic western, but one in which he also hilariously berates and sends-up the clichéd format.
MacFarlane plays Albert, a cowardly sheep farmer in the old west. It takes a scene-and-a-half to settle into the tone of his performance, but once you’re aligned, the film is a non-stop laugh-along as MacFarlane plays it from the angle of a man out of time – almost as if Albert has been to the 21st Century and hates all the things about 1882; bar fights, the dusty land, and how every western ever made has to end with a Mexican standoff.
MacFarlane is supported by a hugely talented cast, with an array of brilliant comedic showings from Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman and Giovanni Ribisi, which are beautifully anchored by two excellent performances from Liam Neeson and Charlize Theron. It is MacFarlane himself, though, who, starring in a film he has written and directed, demonstrates what a genuine master he is, continuing his sharp-witted brand of close-to-the-bone humour, in a spoof film that makes you actually care about the characters…no easy task
It’s a brilliant subversion of the western genre, but conversely, one that retains great affection for all the things we romanticise about that era, perhaps best exemplified by Joe McNeely’s rousing score and the breathtaking visuals that open the film – an immediate seduction by MacFarlane which instils a thirst for some old-school wonder and adventure.
The film is home to many cameo appearances, but one, which I won’t ruin, is so perfectly judged that it’s worth the ticket price on its own. In short, A Million Ways to Die in the West is an absolute joy, which bathes itself in the glory and romance of the western, on the way to being a extremely funny combination of self-referential comedy and escapism. 4.5/5