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A Million Ways to Die in the
By modern standards, 1882 being the year Charles Darwin died, Bela Lugosi was born and Louis Pasteur developed a rabies vaccine are pretty much the only interesting things about 1882. 17 years had passed since the Civil War brought Arizona and all other Confederate Territories and States into the Union under Lincoln. In 1882, the US population was one-sixth of today's at roughly 50 million, the country's average life expectancy per capita was around 40 and bloodletting using leeches was still a common medical treatment for hundreds of ailments, including smallpox, comas and acne. Explaining that average life expectancy thing. More horrifying, movies didn't exist yet - never mind TV, YouTube or Vine videos. 1882 sucked back then. Big time. Especially for movie bloggers.
1882 sucking big time is the general theme of A Million Ways to Die in the West, where MacFarlane's screenplay crudely riffs on that era's now antiquated, ignorant and often bizarre norms with an acerbic contemporary edge while seeming to tip a dusty Stetson to the likes of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), Cat Ballou (1965), Blazing Saddles (1974), and Monty Python-style parodies - minus the silly voices. And, when I say crudely, I do mean much of the humour is boorish, sophomoric and absolutely hilarious for fans of this stuff when the crass gags work. There are sex jokes, death jokes, foul-mouthed jokes, fart jokes, toilet jokes, and racial jokes. Some are wince-inducing duds, some are uproarious gems. Some jokes fall anywhere in-between, depending on your sensibility. A notable low brow highlight of side-splitting proportions would be Neil Patrick Harris's diarrhea scene, for instance.
Probably the best thing about this movie is it isn't just a bunch of Western-inspired, single-punchline skits spiced up for shock value and loosely spun together. It does contain a couple of humorously random asides and a handful of fun celebrity cameos, but they don't make or break this flick. Good, bad and ugly, the humour is all supported by an enjoyably undemanding story that encourages most of this impressive cast to work magic.
The story's premise revolves around the secluded desert plains town of Old Stump, where glum, inept and obsessively self-preserving rancher Albert Stark meets friendly yet elusive newcomer Anna on the heels of Albert being dumped by his fickle girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried). Stark soon horrifies himself when a jealous rage sparks him to foolishly challenge Louise's new lover to a duel, and gifted sharpshooter Anna's casual fondness for Albert blossoms while teaching him to shoot - inviting big trouble when her notoriously violent and possessive husband Clinch Leatherwood catches up with them. Karma's a bitch. And, Neil Patrick Harris poops in a hat. hee-hee
MacFarlane and Ribisi are a sheer joy to watch play off of each other as a kind of sassy straight man, thick sidekick team. Appropriately, Sarah Silverman serves up the raunchiest laughs, playing opposite Ribisi as his character's virtuous girlfriend and spermy saloon prostitute Ruth. Too funny. Better still, Charlize Theron is naturally flippant and funny here while maintaining a believably unassuming depth to her supporting role. I expected Theron to ham it up, but was happily surprised by her outstanding performance. Serious Charlize Theron has been fairly hit-and-miss over the years, but funny Charlize Theron definitely needs to be in more big screen comedies.
Easily written off unseen as being little more than an updated but unnecessary Mel Brooks or Monty Python knock-off, A Million Ways to Die in the West does fire a few blanks but delivers a consistent barrage of cheeky laugh-out-loud moments from its phenomenal cast of proven talent cleverly led by MacFarlane. The broad humour won't please everyone, but this Western spoof is definitely well worth the price of admission if you're a diehard fan of cleverly irreverent adult comedy. Reviewed 06/14, © Stephen Bourne, moviequips.ca.
A Million Ways to Die in the
West is rated 14A by the Ontario Film Review Board, citing scenes
containing some grotesque images in a fantasy, comedic or historic
context, coarse language, slurs, sexual references, nudity in
a non-sexual context, illustrated or verbal references to drugs,
alcohol or tobacco, crude content, substance abuse, embracing
and kissing, mild sexual innuendo, sexual innuendo, tobacco use,
and violent acts shown in clear, unequivocal and realistic detail
with blood and tissue damage, and is rated 13+ by la Régie
du Cinéma in Québec.
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