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March 30th, 2017

A Million Ways to Die in the West **

 

I wish I could go back and live in the old west. The old west was majestic, rugged, and beautiful. The old west: where a man could test his mettle and experience American freedom in its purest form.

I’m just kidding, of course. The old west was horrible.

Settlers faced isolation and extreme boredom. There was an ugly male/female ratio, which I assume led to loneliness, jealousy and violence against women.

It’s absurd that our culture romanticizes the old west. I’ll bet if the American Frontier still existed, brave brainless young men would still leave their safe eastern homes and venture out there.

Westerns rightly portray the old west as a violent place – where death could come from a gunman’s bullet, a native’s tomahawk, or a hangman’s noose.

But Westerns leave out the other causes of early death in the old west. Like famine and malnutrition. Like cholera and venereal disease. Like rattlesnake and mountain lion attacks. Like being injured on the job but not being able to receive medical care because the nearest doctor is dozens of miles away and doesn’t really know what he’s doing, anyway.

Seth MacFarlane gets it. “A Million Ways to Die in the West” is, at its best, a convincing counterpoint to every western that makes the 19th century American frontier look romantic and cool.

The year is 1882. MacFarlane plays Albert: an average guy who hates the fact that he lives in old west Arizona.

Albert’s life gets a lot less boring when a beautiful stranger named Anna (Charlize Theron) comes to town. Albert and Anna hit it off.

Albert is a happy man until he finds out that Anna is married to the deadliest killer in the territory (Liam Neeson).

“A Million Ways to Die in the West” isn’t the worst comedy I’ve ever seen. But it is a surprising disappointment for Seth MacFarlane.

(With all due respect to Mel Blanc and Billy West), Seth MacFarlane is the greatest voice actor of all time. “Family Guy” and “American Dad” are consistently terrific television cartoons. And “Ted” was a beloved box office smash.

This movie just isn’t as inspired or funny. The last hour has more high speed horse chases and gun fights than laughs.

If “A Million Ways to Die in the West” were released in 1882 as an after school special to convince teenagers not to move out west, then the film would be a splendid success. As a comedy, though, it misses the target.

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