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It has been well over a month since A Million Ways to Die in the West has been released on DVD and perhaps the home entertainment reaction to the film will be a bit better than the welcome that Seth MacFarlane’s version of what could be described as the modern Paleface got on its initial release. The creative genius behind television’s Family Guy and American Dad as well as the big screen Mark Wahlberg comedy Ted, was not overly praised by film critics with his “scatter shot” film, as stated by Rotten Tomatoes, but box office receipts prove that the film was not that bad, making over twice its production costs.
The film itself manages to entertain quite adequately if it is viewed in the spirit presented. This is MacFarlane after all. The man who brought the world a walking, talking teddy bear with no real word of explanation. In his spoof western, the man makes no excuses, and again no explanation, for his version of the old west. The extended gag is that this time in American history was a pretty dangerous place to live and work. It has to be said that the long wait for a double punch line, “people die at the fair” is worth it and regardless of what most critics seemed to think, the film is funny.
Part of the movie’s problem was the sheer amount of jokes, gags, puns, and sketches that MacFarlane manages to pack into his comedic effort of showing just how deadly the old west was. With that sort of shotgun attempt at comedy, which must be what Rotten Tomatoes meant with their scatter shot statement, it stands to reason that there would be a lot of hit and miss moments in the film. A Million Ways to Die in the West, could have been retitled A Million Different Ways to Deliver a Joke. With the release of the movie on DVD, at the very least, viewers now have the option to learn just what Seth was thinking of while making the film.
The performances of the principal actors are spot on, Liam Neeson plays his role so straight that it hurts, but that delivery makes perfect sense in the film. Charlize Theron genuinely appears to find all of Seth’s Albert’s antics funny and again, this works very well. Amanda Seyfried as Albert’s fickle girlfriend, Sarah Silverman and the saloon girl/hooker, Giovanni Ribisi as the best friend and Neil Patrick Harris as the mustache on two legs, all deliver in this parody/spoof. Perhaps the only performer who could be seen as letting things down was MacFarlane.
It is difficult for any professional to wear three hats, which is tantamount to juggling or twirling three plates successfully. Even more so if critics are waiting to see the individual stumble. MacFarlane has a better track record than most and it is the existence of his “wins” that made him a target with this film. A Million Ways to Die in the West on DVD is funny enough and if the movie’s gags contain a few clunkers, the price of a rental, or to stream it online, is much less than the price of a cinema ticket. This western comedic offering may do much better in the Home Entertainment market with the added bonus of having a lot less vitriol aimed at the man who dared to wear so many chapeaus, one of which was a cowboy hat.
By Michael Smith