All lovers of the Family Guy cartoon series already know the fierce humor of Seth MacFarlane, yet many missed one of his best movies in 2014, A Million Ways to Die in the West.
In addition to writing and directing this crazy comedy, MacFarlane also plays the main protagonist, a petty cattle rancher living in a small Arizona town during the late 18th century.
Although he is a quiet and peaceful man, he is a real whiner, always complaining about everything, from the people he lives with to the sheep he raises.
Most of all, he cannot avoid reflecting on how dangerous the times of the Wild West are, where death comes suddenly and brutally amidst everyone’s indifference.
That is why he does not have many friends, and even his fiancée, bored by his constant whining and longing for a brighter man, dumps him for the wealthy and vain local barber.
To upset his existence, a new lady comes to town who is left alone after her violent brother goes to jail for a fight.
But the man is not her brother at all, yet the member of a dangerous gang of which this girl is precisely the leader’s mate, a ruthless killer catching up with them in a few days.
Knowing nothing of this, the farmer becomes her friend, and after an initial embarrassment, she decides to help him win back his fiancée by challenging at gunpoint the jerk with whom she replaced him.
However, it won’t be long before the real criminal gang shows up in town, at which point the cowardly simpleton must face the most dangerous gunman of the West in a duel before everyone on the town’s main street.
The violent fun of the west
A Million Ways to Die in the West is one of the funniest movies of 2014, proving you don’t have to be deadly serious and dramatic in Westerns, as was true, for example, of the West Women I wrote about recently.
Seth MacFarlane takes this humor to another level, reaching in many spots to outright dementia beyond any kind of believability and realism.
Yet we must emphasize the excellent script, which despite the rampant insanity, always keeps a decent quality to a story that is not just a chain of gags to entertain.
The characters and their behavior have meaning within the narrative, being fabulously diverse in personality and leading each to a different kind of comedy.
Obviously, if you are already familiar with Family Guy, then you know what kind of adult, biting humor is waiting for you, and it will not fail to amuse you precisely as it does in the famous cartoon.
Similarly, although it is a comedy, these gags are accompanied by over-the-top and equally hilarious visual violence, exponentially enhancing the comical edge of each situation.
So if you are susceptible to vulgarity, consider yourself warned because political correctness is not in even one second of the nearly two-hour running time.
Nevertheless, the director pays respectful homage to the western genre, especially when the ruthless Liam Neeson and his band of ferocious gunslingers enter the scene.
The staging, the rough dirtiness of the various characters, and the location are dusty, following the best tradition and the habit of ending conversations by putting your hand on a gun.
However, what are the faces of this West?
MacFarlane’s latest movie?
Among the various characters, we begin with Seth MacFarlane, whose fear of the West’s violence is the premise where nearly all the gags arise.
He is an amusing little anti-hero who spends his life amid disappointments and awkward episodes, in a general distrust of everyone, until we get the ever-stunning Charlize Theron on the scene.
As always, the actress blends her striking beauty with refined dramatic flair, although she does fall prey to the hilarious madness flooding every moment of the story.
I may have allowed a bit more space for her background with Liam Neeson, who also shows no lack of humor, albeit in the violent attitude of this gunslinger with no mercy toward anyone.
The actor pokes fun at the tough guy status he long holds in cinema, as he did back in his amusing cameo at the supermarket with Ted, the cute living teddy bear from MacFarlane’s movies.
In addition to these main characters, let’s remember the excellent supporting actors surrounding the protagonist, starting with his best friend, Giovanni Ribisi, and his strange platonic relationship with his promiscuous girlfriend, Sarah Silverman.
Jealousy culminates in an absurd ballet about the superiority of men with mustaches. We also witness the director’s musical fantasy and passion, an element that occasionally comes out in Family Guy.
A Million Ways to Die in the West was a decently grossing movie in 2014, paying back the production cost but not delivering the vast earnings to become famous.
Unfortunately, we have had no other MacFarlane movies, but at least we have some fun cameos, as in Logan Lucky, which I mentioned some time ago.