I'm not exactly sure why critics seem to pissing on a great height over Seth MacFarlane's new comedy, A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST. The only legitimate criticism is that his highly concentrated humour, with visual and verbal hits coming at you at a rapid-fire pace, is hard to take for over two hours. But other than that, what's not to like? This film is funny, wry and has genuine heart and I honestly don't see what there is to criticise in the performances either.
The movie works in the same way as MacFarlane's smash hit comedy, TED. Take some outlandish premise and apply that extreme harsh MacFarlane humour. In this case, we're put in the Wild West, complete with shoot-em-outs, warehouses and corrupt oligarchs and asked to laugh at how absurd it is. Hence the title of the film. The West isn't a place to romanticise but a filthy, disease-ridden misogynistic and racist era in which nature and man conspired to kill you. So if you get the one person in the film, played by Seth MacFarlane, bitching about how absurd life is within the context of a spoofily all-happy Western, then that, to me, is really funny.
The plot is as follows. MacFarlane plays Albert Stark - a hapless sheep farmer who has been rejected by his sweetheart Louise (Amanda Seyfried) in favour of the rich moustache-bearing merchant Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). Albert then forms a friendship with Anna (Charlize Theron) who teaches him how to shoot properly so he can survive a duel with Foy. Little does he know that Anna is really the wife of an outlaw called Clinch (Liam Neeson.)
So what we have is the classic rom-com set-up where a guy tries to impress the one girl while really falling in love with the other. We even have a song and dance number that is absolutely brilliant and probably the best thing Neil Patrick Harris has done since Dr Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog. We also get a side plot that pokes a lot of fun at an earnest guy (Giovanni Ribisi) dating a whore (Sarah Silverman) who refuses to sleep with him until they are married.
Like I said, I loved TED and I loved this film. It was half an hour too long, for sure, but I found its analysis of the absurdity of the Western myth spot on and its casting superb.
A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST has a running time of 116 minutes and is rated R. The movie is on global release.