So, after finally seeing the spectacular How to Train Your Dragon 2, I decided to lend my attention to another one of my most anticipated films of the year, Seth MacFarlane’s wild west parody A Million Ways to Die in the West. After being tickled quite thoroughly by his directorial debut, Ted, I found myself eagerly awaiting his follow up, and yet, I find that in spite of all the potential this project had, it’s hard not to consider myself underwhelmed by the final product.
First of all, the movie does have its considerable strengths. Charlize Theron is terrific, the film looks superb and stylized, the first hour of this film has plenty of solid gags, the supporting actors get some great laughs now and then, and the film comes equipped with an amazing musical score by Joel McNeely (Please go buy this movie’s album).
However, that’s as far as it goes. Ultimately, what A Million Ways to Die in the West classifies as is a creative process that the late, great Steve Jobs described as “Second Product Syndrome”, wherein companies have superb first products, yet they fail to realize what made it so special the first time around, leading to dissatisfying results to their latest effort. As much as he is clearly a lover of great cinema, with this film, MacFarlane kinda missed the point. You see, it doesn’t matter how many jokes you have if the actual story and context isn’t any good. The actors assembled are perfectly game and willing, but their characters, even for the two-dimensional archetypes they’re meant to satirize, are written hollow, and MacFarlane’s character doesn’t make for an all too interesting hero in the first place. The movie is full of useless diversions, most likely full of at least fifteen minutes of filler, and the second half’s pacing and tone falls apart fast, especially when MacFarlane seemingly isn’t sure anymore if he wants to direct a parody or a straight faced western. As much as I like the first hour’s gags, the second hour is far too inconsistent.
I’m disappointed to say this, but when I asked for a fantastic follow up to Ted, this isn’t what I was asking for. In short, just stay home and watch Blazing Saddles.
**1/2 / *****