I wasn’t keeping tabs, but here’s my best guess at the tally of the jokes from this film… Twelve boner jokes, seven poop jokes, two pee jokes, five unexpected celebrity cameos, six random cutaway jokes, five kick in the groin jokes, and about seven people-falling-down-to-end-a-scene-with-a-laugh jokes.. Probably about equal to what I was expecting in a Seth MacFarlane movie. At one point, as the characters entered a barn dance, I got up and slowly walked to the bathroom (wasn’t in much of a hurry to get back), and upon re-entering the theater, I caught the last 10 seconds of what appeared to be a classic MacFarlane forced song and dance number where everyone was singing about mustaches. Just people singing “Mustache!” “Mustache!” over and over again. Sorry I missed the genesis of that gem of a sequence…
The plot was about as by the books and standard as they come. Guy gets dumped, guy meets new girl, guy tries to win back old girl, guy falls for new girl, new girl’s husband tries to kill guy, guy gets new girl in the end after old girl finally realizes he’s great. How do you even write a movie this plain and expect it to be memorable in any way?
And oddly enough, it did seem like MacFarlane wanted to make a real movie in there somewhere. Entire scenes will go by where not even a joke attempt was made (I think). For example, there’s a whole scene with MacFarlane running away from bandits on his horse, and then he manages to get on the other side of a train, and then ends up on the train and gets away. Liam Neeson says “He’ll be back.” and the scene ends. It was like a three-minute scene and not a single attempt at comedy was made. So did MacFarlane just want to make a real western? But he’s bogged down with this stigma of being the master of the low hanging fruit? (And boy does this fruit hang low. It’s at that perfect height where you don’t even have to lift your arm up to reach it, it just lazily grazes your palm as you walk with your arms by your side.) I really don’t think MacFarlane wanted to just make a laugh-a-second comedy. The problem is, he can’t have it both ways in a film when one character spends 45 seconds of screen time pooping enough diarrhea to literally fill two cowboy hats.
So many jokes are painfully self-referential, too. “Hey, we’re in the west!” “Isn’t this time period crazy?” Like characters are literally saying those words out loud. I think the line “The west f***ing sucks, right?!” was spoken verbatim three times. Yeah, we get it, you’ve made a movie about how bad it was to live back then. So, now actually do something with it, and don’t just explain the title of the movie to us fifteen times like we can’t comprehend the material.
MacFarlane has a really bad habit of over-explaining jokes for comedic effect in this film. At one point, a character says a line along the lines of, “I can buy her things like dresses, shoes, and wrapped candies.” Then as if we didn’t hear it or needed it beaten over out heads again, the character follows it up by saying, “You heard me… Wrapped candies.” Later in the film, the main character says a pretty good insult about his ex-girlfriend’s lady parts, only to walk off-screen, immediately walk back on-screen and then explain the joke in excruciating detail. I know that the point of the joke was for it to be over-explained, but it didn’t need to be and then it wasn’t funny when he actually did it. Either the jokes are terrible to begin with, or he really doesn’t have much respect for his audience’s intelligence. This falls in the same category of overuse of reaction shots. People get killed by things a lot in this movie, and it’s almost always followed by a cutaway to MacFarlane’s character going “OH MY GOD, THAT WAS TERRIBLE!” These reactionary jokes are like the cinematic equivalent of an “Applause” sign, trying to force the audience into laughter about the ridiculous nature of the joke before it. “Hey, look at my joke!!! Did you see my joke?!?!?”
And then there’s stuff like the Doc Brown Back to the Future 3 joke. I don’t care if I’m spoiling anything, because at this point I’m just trying to save you $8. Anyway, at one point of the movie, MacFarlane’s character wanders over to a barn, and when he looks inside, Doc Brown is covering up his DeLorean, and says he’s working on a weather experiment. Then MacFarlane’s character leaves. Doc Brown is shown one more time, where he says “Great Scott!” for no particular reason other than it’s his catchphrase, and the movie continues as if it didn’t happen. But… C’mon… The entire joke is that Doc Brown is a movie character who exists. The only way that anyone laughs at that scene is if they go “Ha! I’ve seen that character before!” It’s the same kind of stupidly empty reference that masquerades as an actual joke that spurs the same kind of people to cheer when someone on a talk show says a city they live in. “Hey, I’ve been to that city before!” “Hey, I’ve seen that character before!” People just like to relate to things they can recognize, I guess, and then clap like goons. In reality, no joke of substance has actually been made. Same goes for the credits scene when Jamie Foxx shows up in full Django attire and shoots a racist guy we were introduced to earlier in the movie. The joke is that Django is a character from another movie that we can recognize. Ok… Again… DO something with it, Seth. It would be like if a stand-up comedian said “Remember when Monica Lewinsky blew the president?” And then just moved on with his act.
I’m normally amused by Seth MacFarlane’s projects (I liked Ted, and I’ve enjoyed Family Guy from time to time), but A Million Ways to Die in the West was just awful. It was boring and slow-paced, it was full of CBS-sitcom quality jokes, and it had a punishing duration of 115 minutes. I almost felt bad that I disliked the movie so much that I began to wonder if I was being a snobby asshole for not laughing at it? Am I above this movie? Did it shoot too low, even for me? But I like watching YouTube videos of people slipping on ice… I felt the desire to watch a something funny when I got home from the movie just to make sure I hadn’t gone dead inside and become numb to laughter earlier in the day.
I guess I had a few legitimate chuckles at Sarah Silverman’s prostitute character, but nothing more than a “Heh”. Actually, the only time I outwardly laughed was at probably the stupidest joke in the movie, when MacFarlane is hiding from the bandits under his flock of sheep, and he looks up and sees a detailed human penis on one of the sheep. We look at it for a few seconds, then it starts peeing on his face. And the movie just goes on from there. I shook my head, looked at my fiance, and started laughing at the sheer embarrassment of everyone involved; from the director, to the audience, to the prop department who got the order to make a working sheep penis for a film. I wonder how that joke came to be? Did MacFarlane write himself into too serious of a corner, and needed to insert that terrible joke to ensure us this is a still something of a comedy? Or was the sheep penis the original plan, and MacFarlane needed to somehow *get* his character under a sheep? Either way it was, by far, one if the worst, laziest jokes I’ve ever seen. In that regard, I say “bravo”. It’s always just as impressive to see the very bottom as it is to see the very top.
2.5 out of 10