Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Million Ways to Die in the West ★★

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    The Western portion of the United States in the late 19th century surely consisted of hard times and numerous trials and tribulations. Just ask Seth MacFarlane. "A Million Ways to Die in the West" is a film that not only centers on observational humor, with regard to this particular era in history, but it attempts to blend this "Did you ever notice" style of comedy (a comedic emphasis that fueled the timeless sitcom of "Seinfeld") with that of contemporary society and, unfortunately, it falls flat in many ways than one. (Of course, there are also a number of droll moments infused with sexual deviance and nauseating behavior, both of which have become a staple in MacFarlane's bag of tricks.)
    Albert Stark is a sheep farmer whose life in the Old West has now become quite miserable. Beyond the daily perils stemming from infectious disease and outnumbering rattlesnakes, Stark has learned of a new and rather distressing form of suffering: being dumped. To make matters worse, our less than charming protagonist challenges his former beau's new love interest, Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), to a shootout, when his ability to shoot a gun is far from being deemed competent.

    Enter Anna (Charlize Theron), a beautiful yet mysterious newcomer to town, who will ultimately befriend our hero, teach him the art of gun fighting, and bring him closer to the most notorious outlaw in the West, Clinch (Liam Neeson), than he could have ever imagined. This all leads to a climax completely immersed in monotony, as MacFarlane's production reaches into a barrel of jests, only to retrieve several moments of unamusing antics; we could care less of this outcome involving our central character, and this is much of the problem. (He is cowardly, immature, and quite dull, and although much of the picture relies on his struggle to regain any sense of dignity--it is all for naught--as patience wears thin and while restless gazes turn toward the exit sooner than expected.)  

    The failings of "A Million Ways" could not be more obvious. MacFarlane is a poor actor in every sense of the phrase, and his approach to the dialogue is nothing short of lackluster. (He belches out witticisms as if he were actually on the stage, and this not only seems out of place, but takes away from the nature of the observational humor; instead of making the observations ourselves, we must wait for MacFarlane's cue, in hopes that his commentary will add to the amusement.) In addition to this incredibly deficient display of acting ability is an undignified role for Theron, one of the most talented actresses left in Hollywood, and a second-rate set that screams of reproduction.

    In fact, the most entertaining scene in the entire film simply involves a cameo by Christopher Lloyd as Dr. Emmett Brown from the "Back to the Future" franchise, which has absolutely nothing to do with the picture itself. It would seem that MacFarlane has once again produced a film that cannot capture his brand of comedy in a flattering light.

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