Now tutoring:
Subject Level
Physics Levels 1-3
General science Years 9-13
Japanese Beginner—intermediate
Digital photo Beginner—intermediate
Computer skills Beginner—advanced
Call today!

On A Million Ways to Die in the West, and shitting in hats

May 29th, 2014

The plot of A Million Ways to Die in the West is flimsy to the point of transparency. Albert (Seth MacFarlane, who also directed and co-wrote) is dumped by his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) for fop-about-town Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). Anna (Charlize Theron), the mysterious beauty who arrives in town shortly after, tells him that it’s her loss. Oh, and she’s also the wife of Clinch (Liam Neeson), the most savage killer in the West.

A Million Ways to Die in the West

A Million Ways to Die in the West

If you don’t see how this set-up plays out, then, frankly, you’re not trying at all hard enough. But it’s not the plot that matters — the story, such as it is, is noting more than a structure on which to hang a series of quite wonderfully funny set-piece gags. Albert is a truly crap sheep farmer, but his sheep are an opportunity to set up a very kiwi-friendly set of highly inappropriate sheep gags. By the end of the film, you will — really, you will — be also laughing at sheep-piss gags, genitourinary diarrhoea gags, incest gags, sex gags (oral and anal), prostitution gags, a drug-trip scene that might have been imagined by Salvador Dali if he’d done a few magic mushrooms too many and then sat down for a Miyazaki Hayao marathon, and perhaps the finest shitting-in-a-hat sequence you’ll ever see. It’s a very, very funny film.

MacFarlane is very funny as Albert; Theron, while being an undeniably pleasant sight on the screen, doesn’t really contribute massively beyond being, as she points out to Albert, “smoking hot — and I’ve got great tits, too.” Sometimes, I suppose, this is enough for an actress to bring to the screen. Harris, as Foy, isn’t given as many chances to let go and have the serious fun I would have liked to have seen him having, but he’s always watchable. And, after eight years of How I Met Your Mother, it was inevitable, really, that a Barney catchphrase would, at some point, slip in. Seyfried is almost entirely wasted as Louise — her character is little more, really, than a foil for Albert, Anna and Foy, and brings little other than a chance for a rather knowing gag about Seyfried herself. Much of the slack is picked up, though, by Neeson, managing for a change to speak comprehensibly and audibly, and bringing a pleasing amount of cartoon menace to Clinch. But the real fun comes from Giovanni Ribisi as Edward, Albert’s mate, and Sarah Silverman as Ruth, Edward’s fiancée and a very busy hooker who doesn’t want to have sex with Albert until they’re married.

Albert, Edward and Ruth’s scenes are the funniest by far. A running gag about not smiling in photographs is part of the nicely anachronistic nature of the three characters, who bring a modern sensibility to the mix which provides a very effective contrast to the knowingly clichéd stock western characters in the rest of the film.

At two hours, A Million Ways to Die in the West is occasionally a little over-long — but, to be fair, it’s simply not easy to maintain the momentum of the opening few scenes, and it would likely start to become stale. Instead, we’re treated to some stunning scenery from Monument Valley to punctuate the film, and a delightful little cameo from [spoiler].

Go and see it. You’ll be very glad you did.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

« « On Bad Neighbours, and having a fun night out at the pictures| On guns, gun control, death and what to do » »