A Million Ways to Die in the West
dir Seth MacFarlane
scr Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild
prd Seth MacFarlane, Jason Clark, Scott Stuber
with Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman, Evan Jones, Christopher Hagen, Wes Studi, Matt Clark, Gilbert Gottfried
release US/UK 30.May.14
14/US Universal 1h56
A Million Ways to Die in the West
Perils of the country fair: Seyfried, Harris, MacFarlane and Theron

neeson ribisi silverman
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
A Million Ways to Die in the West After the success of Ted, MacFarlane turns to what's clearly a passion project: a comedy Western that shows real affection for both serious epics and the iconic spoof Blazing Saddles (from which MacFarlane lifts several classic gags). And it's so consistently hilarious that audiences won't mind that the laughs are cheap and the thin story is stretched far too long.

In 1882 Arizona, wimpy sheep farmer Albert (MacFarlane) is something of a local joke, especially now that his girlfriend Louise (Seyfried) has dumped him for the swaggering Moustachery shopkeeper Foy (Harris). His best pal Edward (Ribisi) has his own issues, as he's waiting until marriage to sleep with his fiancee Ruth (Silverman), the town's busiest prostitute. Then Anna (Theron) arrives in town, befriending Albert as she hides out from her husband, the notorious outlaw Clinch (Neeson).

Theron not only saves Albert, but she recues the film as well. Her sexy, athletic, offhanded presence is a blast of fresh air, effortlessly glossing over the smutty comedy and clunky plot machinations. And while MacFarlane essentially just plays himself, everyone around him has impeccable comical timing, offering wit far sharper than the lazy excretion-based humour. There's also a line-up of starry cameos that adds plenty of spark for the eagle-eyed.

As a director, MacFarlane makes the film look expansive and authentic, complete with a terrific pastiche Wild West score by Joel McNeely. Action scenes are a bit tentative, but they have a strongly interpersonal angle, especially as Anna helps Albert emerge from his cowardly shell to take on the tough guys in his own way. Their relationship emerges very nicely along the way, with consistent humour as well as some proper romance.

And MacFarlane doesn't let any of the genre's cliches go to waste, merrily playing with everything from the barn-dance to the Indian pow-wow. So even if something falls flat (like most of the sheep jokes), there's a gunslinging dual or bar-room brawl just around the corner to keep us laughing. And of course, the title itself provides the film's best running gag, as we're reminded over and over again that almost everything can kill you in the West.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 28.May.14
Cameos include Christopher Lloyd (genius gag), John Michael Higgins, Ewan McGregor, Ryan Reynolds and Jamie Foxx.

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