Seth MacFarlane doesn’t seem to care.
Oh; not about making movies or TV shows or about making people laugh. No, he certainly does care about that. What he doesn’t seem to care about is how many subdivisions of people he might offend along the way. Pick a religion, ethnicity, sexual preference, education level, or whatever, and MacFarlane is going to find a way to make everyone else laugh at their expense.
Yes, the guy that has somehow kept Family Guy on TV—on broadcast TV, no less—seemingly forever, when there isn’t another show on pretty much any channel, basic or premium, that seems to give a collective “fuck you” to the entire legal and ethics review boards. He has to have pictures or video of Fox executives in some seriously messed up situations.
Let me be clear: I like Family Guy. I do.
I also enjoyed Ted, MacFarlane’s last movie, Ted.
So, when I say that A Million Ways To Die In The West is good, I mean it. If you like his other work, then you’ll like A Million Ways.
If you don’t…
By now you will have seen the trailers, showing poor Albert Stark (Played by MacFarlane, pulling the triple-play as writer, director, and star) as he shlumps his way through the old west of 1882, bitching ceaselessly about how crappy it is there and how easy it is to die. The eclectic group of friends he surrounds himself with in the po-dunk town of Old Stump is impressive, with Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman as a Christian couple saving themselves for marriage, despite her working as a very successful whore in the local saloon. His (soon-to-be-ex) girlfriend, Louise, played by doe-eyed Amanda Seyfried, eventually comes to decorate the arm of respected local Mustacherie owner Foy, played with comic indifference by Neil Patrick Harris, who almost seems to not be enjoying himself too much…
Throw in Liam Neeson as the bad guy, Clinch Leatherwood, and Charlize Theron as his wife, Anna, and you’ve got a pretty big-name cast.
MacFarlane has also got a lot of his friends showing up in cameos, to boot: Ewan MacGreger, Ryan Reynolds, Jamie Foxx…you’d have to watch it multiple times to catch them all.
And in MacFarlane’s somewhat standard style, it is the details of what is going on that you need to pay attention to. For instance, an off-hand remark by Albert about how every year, someone dies at the Fair is only made to set up the real joke which comes a few minutes later, in the standard, “what the hell just happened” style that makes MacFarlane’s humor so unpredictable.
A western comedy, packed to the gills with off-color jokes, out-of-place/time modern pop-culture references, and it’s incredibly non-PC presentation, A Million Ways To Die In The West would seem to be a natural comparison to Mel Brooks’ immortal Blazing Saddles.
And, in a way, it is the 21st century version of that great movie. Mostly because, as Mel Brooks himself said when speaking about the recent anniversary of Blazing Saddles, that it couldn’t be made today, what with all of the PC bullshit that has permeated society. If someone gets offended, a joke gets pulled or stretched and mutilated until it’s not funny anymore. And he’s right about that.
But then this movie comes along and says “Fuck all of you! I’m gonna make you laugh whether you like it or not.”
(see what I mean?)
And it does. Even my wife was laughing, and this isn’t her typical movie fare.
The jokes are juvenile, offensive (wait for the face-off before the gunfight between Albert and Foy–**shudder**), and really have no place in a theatre. MacFarlane’s innate desire to go for the cheap laugh (and normally getting it) overrides any other instinct he might have.
The real difference between A Million Ways To Die In The West and Blazing Saddles is that Mel Brooks never strove to go as far in that direction as MacFarlane does here. It was smarter, subtler, and, with the exception of the campfire scene, never went for the cheap laugh, but always the “truth-to-power” kind of jab. With MacFarlane, it’s almost feels like he can’t help himself, and he dips into the dregs and pulls out some grunge that, while making you laugh, doesn’t approach the level of Blazing Saddles.
Thankfully, A Million Ways To Die In The West is rated R, and it’s a pretty hard-R with its raunch and language, but for the love of God, don’t take your kids to see it. I don’t care what they’ve watched before; they don’t need to see this.