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Million Ways to Die in the West, A (Blu-ray Review)

3 Oct, 2014 By: John Latchem

Street 10/7/14
Western Comedy
Box Office $42.72 million
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for strong crude and sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug material.
Stars Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Liam Neeson.

Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West has the right amount of jokes a 90-minute comedy should have. Unfortunately, the film runs nearly two hours, with an unrated extended cut running 20 minutes longer, clocking in at 2:15.

MacFarlane basically plays himself transplanted into the Wild West, opening the door for a series of gags observing how horrible it was to live at that time and place. 

The film’s meager box office tally compared with MacFarlane’s monster-hit comedy Ted would suggest audiences would rather hear MacFarlane than see him, but he holds his own among the acting talent he’s assembled. Since he co-wrote the script and serves as director, it shouldn’t be a surprise he has a good handle on his own material, and the film is often very funny.

The problem is that MacFarlane the director has fallen so in love with his Western locales (primarily Monument Valley in Utah) that he lingers on the landscape with long establishing shots as if he’s making The Searchers.

In the extras, MacFarlane says this is part of the joke, that the film takes its setting seriously. And, indeed, this is a beautiful film to look at. But the net effect of the laborious pacing is to drag out the comedic beats of the story without resulting in a sense of progress toward its natural conclusion. Blazing Saddles it is not.

MacFarlane plays Albert, a cowardly sheep farmer who hopes to win back his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) by challenging her new beau (Neil Patrick Harris) to a gunfight. Since Albert doesn’t know how to shoot, he enlists the help of a new-to-town Anna (Charlize Theron) without knowing she’s the wife of a notorious outlaw (Liam Neeson) due to arrive in town in a few days after a big heist.  It’s all set up for an assortment of cameos and jokes involving a variety of topics ranging from sex, whorehouses, wild animals, Indians and Western tropes in general.

At least the Blu-ray is loaded with bonus material, including a filmmaker commentary, deleted scenes, a gag reel and several featurettes.

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