Hello, Spongey here.
You know, I haven’t done a live action general review in a while. This is mostly because I haven’t seen a live action movie in theaters for a awhile mostly due to time reasons. It’s a not big deal, but since you likely won’t get a lot this year, I figured I’d crank one out.
That and it’s a movie I honestly feel doesn’t give me too much too say for a full review. I have a lot to say but this film is a Comedy and its pros and cons are best discussed in general more than just telling you all the jokes. At least with this type of Comedy, anyway.
You can argue all you want about this apply to other comedies I plan on reviewing but I just feel better doing those in my usual style. That and those movies are way shorter and it would be less boring than it would be reviewing this one.
With that out of the way…Seth MacFarlane. I’ve talked about before, to say the least. Regardless of how you feel about him and his work, he has a Comedy style of his own and that won’t appeal to everyone.
He’s very talented but he wastes that talent sometimes. Sometimes his humor works well, other times it’s tasteless and terrible. Sometimes he has good character and decent stories, and other times the characters are as lovable as getting stabbed in the balls.
He’s not very consistent, even in the mostly bad Modern Family Guy and Cleveland Show. However, his main talents as an actor and oddly enough, songwriter, are still there. I’m saying all this to be fair, since I am one of those who is mixed on him as of late.
Despite all that, I was surprised by his 2012 film debut Ted. I actually reviewed it awhile back, if you recall, I heavily praised that movie for its dramatic story and writing. Yes, really. The humor was hit or miss, (but nothing pissed me off too much) and the story shined despite using clichés.
Due to that, I was looking forward to his follow up film. It even made it on my list of my Most Anticipated Films of 2014. …It didn’t seem to work out so well. While critics liked Ted, they pretty lukewarm to this film, and it got weak reviews. Mostly negative but that seems to have calmed down.
It even underperformed compared to what they expect, but it didn’t exactly bomb too hard either. What happened here? Why did people respond poorly to this, despite responding well to his first film?
And most importantly, do I agree with the critics? Let’s take a look.
This, is A Million Ways to die in the West
In the dangerous old west, a cowardly Sheep Farmer is dumped by his girlfriend due to not being enough of a man. Things perk up when he hits it off with a lady that just arrived in town. But his luck seems to be running out, as he must deal with the harsh-ness of the West, as well as his Ex’s boyfriend and an evil crook who roams into town..
Might as well rip the big bandage out right now: I thought this movie was…alright. Not as bad as I feared going into it, but not as good as Ted, or as it could have been. It’s consistently …okay.
But there’s some important reasons for that, so let’s go over them. I’ll go ahead and push a few positives first. Seth clearly has love for classic Westerns and this movie does a fantastic job at capturing that.
The sets look really good, and the music and cinematography capture the feeling of an old Western really well. Honestly, if you took out the jokes, this could work really well as a real western with how well made it is. Some decent jokes play off the setting and due those reasons that works.
There’s also two songs in the movie, one of which is in the credits. As per Seth tradition, they are both really catchy and a lot of fun. Hell, even Albert says the first one never leaves your head.
The performances are also solid all around, but I’ll get to that when I discuss the characters. Now for my main criticisms of the movie. Now, we’ll ignore the story issues since this is a Comedy and a bad story can be excused if it’s funny.
Seth’s humor is usually hit or miss, and this film is no exception. However, that’s not exactly the problem. The problem is that it tries way too hard a lot of the time. Instead of following naturally, the writers try too hard to put in jokes whenever possible. Most of this comes from Seth himself, who acts like he’s doing a really long stand up routine about the old west.
Some jokes go on too long, as you might expect. That or they make certain jokes too much. Hey, do you get the old west sucks? Well the movie doesn’t think so because they hammer that in a lot in the first half hour or so. The part in the trailer where Seth lists off things that can kill you goes on way too long, and they hammer it even more with an overlong joke regarding the dead mayor.
And when it’s not doing that, it’s trying too hard to be crass. There a lot of jokes about shit and death, and most of them are stupid, overlong, or just pointless. One example is where one character takes a shit…and that’s the only joke for like 30 seconds.
A lot of this comes from Seth who is a bit overbearing as he inserts a lot of jokes in his dialogue when he can. I can’t blame the acting since it’s the writers who made him talk so much.
With that said, the humor isn’t THAT bad. My issues are kind of small when it comes to the vindual jokes, and most of them aren’t painful. They are usually this just kind of lame or go on too long.
There are some funny moments, and most of them are smaller moments instead of the big parts they want you to laugh it. Albert gets some decent lines in sometimes, and a lot of the times the actor will make you smile more than their lines as they are written. Some of the “old west sucked” jokes are funny, and the leads chemistry leads to nice moments.
However, the single funniest thing in the movie isn’t even really a written line. I won’t even spoil but I will say it happens during the most pointless scene. Overall, the humor itself isn’t the most painful but it suffers from trying a bit too hard.
That leads to my next big problem. The runtime is around an hour and 50 minutes. It’s close to 2 hours and my god, does it feel like it. That problem of jokes running on too long, plays a part in this. It seems small when it happens but when you think about it, the runtime would be greatly reduced if they took a few more trips to the editing room and chopping out a lot of the minor filling.
Despite this, the pace feels fine …until the 3rd act. Without spoiling anything huge yet, there’s a point where Albert finds out the big thing the film was leading up to and he then ends up in a part that you think is the big climax, or is leading up to the climax and wrap up.
Then the movies goes for half an hour more. Yeah, Albert ends up out of town and then we the next 20 minutes before he heads back for the climax are completely pointless. The film acts like it’s adding to his growth as a character, but it seemed to doing that fine without this scene.
Without it, I can still buy that he’s learning to buck up and yada yada. We didn’t need an acid trip with Indians straight out The Simpsons Movie to tell us that. The pacing got slow before they popped, so when they did i sighed,
Things pick back up after that but it doesn’t make up for anything. Oh, and there’s an abrupt ending! It’s not the worst, but sorry, you can’t have an abrupt ending when your runtime tells us you’re not exactly under any constraint.
Oh, and there’s a subplot with Sarah Silverman and some other guy that shows promise but goes nowhere. Which is too bad since they are very charming in their roles.
So yeah, they needed a better editor. Now let’s briefly go over the story itself. Like with Ted, it’s pretty cliché. But unlike that one, it doesn’t really fix the problems with them.
We have a cowardly guy being dumped for being a loser, with him learning to man up. And of course, we got the liar revealed! Oh yeah. See, Anna, Albert’s love interest, is actually working with the bad guy. She was ordered to lay low in town while he does bad guy stuff. You can guess what happens.
To be fair, it’s not the worst. I mean, since they develop the romance semi decently, I kind of forgot she was with the bad guy and when she is found out, it’s not quite as bad with some other movies. There isn’t a ton of moping and while they do have Seth chew her out, it’s not really the most distracting thing ever.
It’s a problem with the film but not a huge one. I wish they had a more interesting story, or at least didn’t rely on this cliché. From the setting, it’s obvious this would be less story based than Ted, but having this cliché isn’t that necessary in the long run. At least that’s how I feel.
But hey, it’s not a big deal in a Comedy like this, and while the Comedy is mixed, it’s not a huge problem. It’s still an issue though. Before I go further, we gotta discuss the other characters.
Louise, Albert’s Ex-Girlfriend played by Amanda Seyfriend, is weird. From how she acts, she doesn’t seem too bitchy since she is calm when explaining why she doesn’t feel Albert is right. She mostly just kind of stands there while being with her jerk-y boyfriend. Oh yeah, that cliché. I’ve seen worse when it comes to it.
However, she still fills that archetype with how the script plays out and of course, she asks Albert when he proves himself only for him to say “hell no bitch”. He doesn’t actually say that but you wouldn’t be shocked if he did.
So overall, she’s that kind of weak. Then there’s that Jerk boyfriend, Foy, played by Neil Patrick Harris. Yes, his charm makes this cliché tolerable. He’s a lot of fun when he’s on screen. But that’s the problem. He’s wasted as he isn’t in the movie much. He’s in it enough for the story but given who is playing him, it’s a shame he wasn’t given a lot to. Plus, his last joke is that shit joke I mention. Yay.
I already told you my problem with Sarah Silverman and that other guy. Yeah, I already forget their name, even though they are the most memorable supporting characters. They are a married couple but Sarah doesn’t want to have sex due to her religious beliefs.
She’s a prostitute.
Yeah, that’s the joke and it’s kind of funny when it isn’t overly crude. I like they these two are very charming and nice to each other despite all this and even when the dude starts to want sex, they aren’t fighting too much over it. Which makes the fact that it goes nowhere even worse. Sarah Silveman is especially good here but she doesn’t get enough to do in the end.
And there’s our villain, played by Liam Neeson. He’s very good in this role but he doesn’t do a lot. I can forgive this seeing this is the kind of plot where the villain is mostly in the climax, but it is a shame there isn’t a lot for him.
But at least Liam Neeson kills people in the movie.
And that’s really it. There are a few cameos, most of which are pretty funny so I won’t spoil them. I’m fine with only a few characters, but perhaps better written ones would live up the film more.
Which leads us to our leads, Alert and Anna, played by Seth (duh) and Charlize Theron. On their own, they are actually fairly solid. Charlize is as good as usually, with her charm, but I actually Seth does an okay job. …Sort of.
He does pretty well when it comes to the calm and naturally humor that comes from his interactions with Anna, and his dramatic moments. He do a more calm type of humor pretty well.
His weakest moments come when the script calls him to try too hard with the gags. He can be a bit annoying in a lot of these moments, but it’s not really his fault. Well, he was one of the writers but he’s not his fault he couldn’t handle some of the materiel he came up with. In general, he’s a pretty good leading man when it more subtle comedic or dramatic parts. But if he’s given too much crass comedy, he kind of gets annoying. Though maybe if the jokes were funnier this wouldn’t be a problem.
The characters themselves aren’t too special. Albert fills in the typical role of a Coward who becomes a man but he’s likable enough when he isn’t giving us bad stand up. Anna is also not the best, but her tough side and sweet-ness make her decent enough. They don’t explain how she ended up with the bad crowd though.
The real highlight of these two performances is the chemistry. If there’s one thing the actors and writers do well it’s the romance. They are genuinely cute together and have nice chemistry as they hang out over the course of the movie. From the training parts to their talks, they are fun to watch and they do a good job at slowly showing this.
Their romance plays out nicely and the better Comedy bits come from their interactions. It’s not hugely original but it’s nice to watch. They just work pretty well and their scenes shine the most on a scripting level, and on an acting level.
I’ve gone on about the drama being the best part of Ted, and in a way the same is true here. As cliché as the dramatic scenes are, and while they aren’t that well written, they do handle them pretty well and the actors make me get sucked in. The drama works despite the script not being the best.
Like I said, if you take out the Comedy, this works as a serious Western. If the story was cliché and flawed, this could’ve been awesome. Oh, and I have another flaw with Albert. The movie really tries hard to show him as misunderstood soul, and Louise is constantly shamed for dumping him.
Albert isn’t a jackass or anything, and this isn’t a huge problem, but I did get sick of it after a while. We get it, he’s a special flower and Louise is a bitch. Please move on.
It is odd how the more dramatic aspects of both Seth’s film are better than the Comedy, but I’m glad either way. I don’t know if I should be shocked the humor is flawed or not. I could be shocked since the same writers wrote Ted, which has okay Comedy.
But I also shouldn’t since the other writers besides Seth were Alec Sulkin and Wesley Wild. Between them, they have classic Family Guy episode such as Seahorse Seashell Party and Screams of Silence, and they created the sitcom Dads.
….Yeah. And keep in mind, those episodes they wrote had failed drama along with failed Comedy so that makes it even weirder. So is there anything else to say before I wrap things up?
Hmm…I don’t think. I touched on Comedy, pacing, story, characters, and all that good stuff. So yeah, we’re almost done here.
As a whole, the movie is rather uneven with many good and bad aspects. The humor can be overly crude and it tries too hard but it can decent. The story is weak and badly paced in the 3rd act but it has decent drama. It looks fantastic and the acting is very good, with the leads having very nice chemistry but some supporting characters are underused.
Overall, the movie itself is fairly disappointing given how talent these people are and how much I liked Ted. Here’s my theory: Despite Seth being huge on TV, he had some restraint on Ted for various reason. When that movie was a huge hit, they gave him more range on this movie, which is why it had so many issues with its overbearing Comedy.
I find that Seth is better when he restrains himself, and that’s not even going into the individual writers on his shows. The best scenes in both movies are more dramatic or subtle parts for this reason.
I suggest that Seth make his next movie a smaller film, perhaps a simple romantic Comedy or something like that. Or, since he clearly loves musicals so much, an old school style musical. Both would be great.
As for this movie, it’s okay. Sure, the flaws make me groan but nothing was really that awful. For most of it I latched on the decent moments and was able to enjoy myself in some parts. However, its way too flawed, especially with the humor, for me to really enjoy it that much.
The good parts aren’t great enough for it to be good, but the bad parts aren’t’ awful enough to make it bad. It’s more an average Comedy with some parts going below Average, and some going above.
I really want to like this one a lot but it didn’t really pan out too well. It’s not as bad as you heard it was, but it is sadly flawed. I’m fairly apathetic to it as a whole. It’s just simply a kind of weak Comedy that needed a few rewrites here and there.
Which in the end, makes it…okay. This is another time where a grade is hard to give. Yeah, it’s been awhile but…
All I can say, I hope Ted 2 ends up being better. Yeah, there’s doing a sequel. The plot sounds odd and not what I wanted, but it could be solid. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Before I sign off, I have something to mention. Usually I don’t tease the next general review, since I do these randomly and even when I plan to do them I still don’t know when they could be.
But as a special present, I have another General review coming to you this weekend. It’s another film I wanted to discuss, and it’s from the same year. It also a comedy, but a different kind.
And here’s the poster:
Oh yeah, it’s finally time for it.