Load, Click, Bang: ‘A Million Ways to Die In the West’ hits its target

This image released by Universal Pictures shows, from left, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Seth MacFarlane and Charlize Theron in a scene from "A Million Ways to Die in the West." | AP Photo/Universal Pictures

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“A Million Ways to Die In the West” takes viewers back to the year 1882 to experience life on the American frontier. The film runs a gauntlet of comedic shots but generally hits its target.

Most notably, Seth MacFarlane commands top gun attention as director, writer, and producer. The film offers a spectacular visualization of life on the American frontier.

MacFarlane even surrounds himself with top Hollywood talents, including Oscar award-winner  Charlize Theron,” How I Met Your Mother”’s Neil Patrick Harris, Oscar award-nominee  Liam Neeson.

But when it comes to acting, MacFarlane falls far short of the heavy weight contenders beside him. Unlike Mark Wahlberg, who starred in MacFarlane’s successful  directing debut  Ted (2013), MacFarlane shows that he’s not ready to walk among elite stars, let alone lead them.

MacFarlane’s efforts weigh in at lightweight. He plays off a few gimmicks, gets some laughs  and then proceeds to re-launch the same gimmicks.

MacFarlane plays Albert, a cowardly farmer looking to rekindle a lost romance with his girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfried). His breakup has left him depressed (one of a million ways a breakup might not kill you, but will still hurt like hell).

Albert’s friend Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) and Ruth (Sarah Silvermen) are somewhat successful in getting Albert to leave his home and relieve him of his depression. But it’s not until Anna (Charlize Theron) moves to town that Albert’s post-breakup outlook changes.

Anna and Albert’s friendship develops and conflicting circumstances  threaten to destroy their bond, which becomes a classic will they/won’t they game.

But what’s equally worth dying for is seeing how the relationship advances between sexually-deprived Edward and sexually-charged Ruth.

The comedic perspective that MacFarlane took of life on the American frontier purposely distorts historical accuracy and this proved to be genius. The mashup of believability and total absurdity amps up the comedy.

Although the film’s characters face dire living conditions said to amount to a million ways to die, the viewer’s experience doesn’t waver very much.

There are a few moments that’ll make you want to gag rather than laugh, but the comedy is strategically sprinkled along the way and doesn’t look forced or contrived. Elements of drama are weaved into the storyline equally as well.

The chemistry among the cast of “A Million Ways to Die in the West” shines brilliantly. Surprisingly, the mysteriousness that characterizes both Albert and Anna proves to be a much-needed vehicle that keeps the movie’s romance rolling.

It’s also worth noting how gritty and chilling Liam Neeson portrays Clinch. Neeson’s bad buy vibes pull you (terrifyingly) close to the storyline.

Neil Patrick Harris’s Foy offered a lot of room for exploration. It’s too bad that his character wasn’t given  more room to play. I don’t think the filmmakers realized what a rage it is for audiences to watch a moustache-wearing douche bag try to one-up MacFarlane’s Albert in every scene.

Even the cameo appearance by  Jamie Foxx was a pleasant surprise, despite coming late in the film.

“A Million Ways to Die In the West” comes out locked and loaded for a shootout for box-office success. The concept of the film is far more original and eclectic than anything else currently playing.

The film opened theaters May 30 and is rated R for crude humor and sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug material.

Megann Horstead is the North Central College Chronicle’s social media editor. This review was reprinted with permission from the North Central Chronicle.

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