Entertainment LIFESTYLE  >  Movie Review: “A Million Ways to Die in the West”

Movie Review: “A Million Ways to Die in the West”

Movie Review: “A Million Ways to Die in the West”
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Ripe for spoofing, the Western genre gets a thorough razzing in Seth MacFarlane’s crude, rude and very lewd follow-up to “Ted”.  With a hard R rating, there isn’t a joke about body secretions, death or sexual acts that isn’t broached with excessive verve and gusto. But I laughed way more than I groaned, even though I had to avert my eyes from the screen a couple of times.

Definitely not for the prudish, this over-long comedy will appeal to the Western aficionado for its numerous visual and thematic references. “A Million Ways” is shot beautifully (by Michael Barrett), with Monument Valley making a welcome, red-hued return to wide-screen. The rocky outcrops are there, as well as treacherous gulches, tumbleweeds blowing through dusty towns and the corner saloon complete with swing doors and dangerous denizens. There is a lusty bar madam played by Alex Borstein (of HBO’s very funny “Getting On”), a town whore (the wide-eyed, profanity spewing Sarah Silverman) and an upstanding sheriff (Rex Linn) who also narrates. There is also Clinch, a black-hatted villain on the run from the law, played with menacing sincerity by Liam Neeson, with his blond beauty of a wife alongside (Charlize Theron). The score by Joel McNeely is typically rousing and reminiscent of old time oaters.

Introduced by the lofty narrator as a “big giant pussy”, our hero is the preternaturally aware Albert played by Seth MacFarlane who penned the script with Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild….the trio behind “Ted”. With his flat tones and 21st century perspective, Albert seems to have been plopped into the scenery to provide comic contrast to the hayseeds and rubes who populate the town of Old Stump, not least among them his best friend Edward, played with goofy gormlessness by Giovanni Ribisi.

Albert sees the Wild Wild West for what it truly is…a lawless, primitive place where danger lurks behind every golden sunset or drink at the bar. Spouting pessimistic doom and gloom, Albert shoots down every canard about the romance of 19th century frontier life. He’s a hypochondriac coward with more than a little Woody Allen about him, if Woody were to find himself transplanted to a god-forsaken dustbowl with no medicine or bug spray.

At the start of the story, peaceable sheep-farmer Albert has been dumped by his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) who prefers the money and moustache of slickster store owner Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). Harris twirls and poses as an 1880s fop and there’s a delightful Monty Pythonesque song to the charms of facial hair. There is also the film’s most disgusting scene which parodies old-fashioned gunfights and gives the bridal store scene in “Bridesmaids” a run for its money.

Albert befriends Anne (Theron), the beautiful newcomer to town who teaches him to shoot and stand up to Foy. But little does Albert suspect that Anne is legendary gun-slinger Clinch’s wife and he’s headed to Old Stump to kill the man who has been seen kissing his woman.  MacFarlane recalls Bob Hope in “Paleface” with his lily-livered, yellow-bellied refusal to stay in town and meet his fate.

In between the spot-on ribbing of Western tropes and characters, there are many very funny throwaway lines and gags. One joke has the virginal Edward in love with Ruth, the town slapper, seemingly oblivious to the nitty-gritty of her trade. Another running gag involves the incipient art of photography and is as observant as it is funny.

At two hours, MacFarlane definitely risks wearing out his welcome, but packing the screen with comic talent (Theron has never been better), celebrity cameos and a constant stream of bawdiness, he keeps all his plates spinning. A third act appearance of Wes Studi and a hilarious hallucinatory scene in Apache with subtitles is priceless. All I can say is that “A Million Ways to die in the West” is very “mi la ku nis”.

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