Seth MacFarlane’s Million Ways to Parody the West…
A cowardly shepherd falls in love with the new girl in town but finds out it’s a wee bit complicated.
A Million Ways to die in the West trailer, c/o Universal Pictures and photographs © Universal Pictures
In the days before Darlin’ Husband, I had only watched the adult-orientated cartoon, Family Guy (1999-) on TV once. This episode parodied one of the later films in the Star Wars trilogy (1977-1983) films. I then made a mental note to watch the Family Guy series.
This especially when one of my friends then told me that there was an episode that spoofed my beloved Dallas (1978-91) with a live-action sequence with a shirtless Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing) and Victoria Principal (Pamela Barnes Ewing) riffing the infamous Bobby shower scene.
Years later, I confessed to my Darlin’ Husband about how prior to our first date I had been supernervous and sung and half acted out my Maria Von Trapp / Julie Andrews’ impression singing the song from The Sound of Music (1965), “I’ve got confidence”. Darlin’ and supertall husband always gently ribs me about my height.. and that’s a blog entry on its own – he asked me if I looked like Stewie in Family Guy singing the same song. I did. Without the guitar. Honest.
I then watched Family Guy as much as possible and my favourite bits were the retro film and TV parodies. I was in tears of laughter by the send-ups of beloved films and TV from my youth such as Tootsie (1982), The Incredible Hulk (1978) and Sixteen Candles (1984). When we lived in Scotland, you had to wait up til the wee small hours of the morning to watch Family Guy.
However, surprisingly over here in Finland, it is on between 4.30pm and 6pm with 5 back to back episodes on a Saturday afternoon. Family Guy is not a harmless family orientated cartoon as the timing in Finland suggests. But it goes without saying, we have a Family Guy free zone when the stepdudes visit.
Seth MacFarlane’s comedy style also includes Ted (2012), which isn’t DiCaprio acting his heart out as Roosevelt. It’s also not a recent sequel to AI, Artificial Intelligence (2001) with a CGI Haley Joel Osment. Just as it is important to note that the title of this week’s, spoiler absent review, A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014) may sound like a documentary introduced by that nice guy who did the docuseries Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (2014).. but it’s not.
Onto the review… A Million Ways to Die in the West not only stars Seth MacFarlane, but he also wrote, directed and produced the film. This is one role up on Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves (1990) epic. McFarlane’s co-stars include Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, and
Dougie Howser MD Neil Patrick Harris.
It also has many cameos, which Darlin’ Husband not only spotted and pointed out to me when I blinked and missed a few of them. He also lovingly reran the pertinent moment in the DVD. I’m not going to spoil it for you to tell who they are but I will say the best cameo is jaw dropping and Great Scott! it has to be seen to be believed.
The story is set in 1882 and is a comedy western. It starts with some perfect opening credits of scenic shots of the “old frontier” and a once familiar Western font introducing the film. The film’s opening soundtrack is a music medley from a number of Western films.
MacFarlane plays Albert Stark, a cowardly, clumsy but romantic sheep farmer who in the opening scene talks his way out of a gunfight, this act leads to his break up with his gal, Louise (Seyfried). After a couple of failed attempts to win her back, he tells his friend Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) and his prostitute girlfriend Ruth (Sarah Silverman).
Louise has now taken up with the cad with the moustache, Foy (
Howser MD Harris). Stark decides to leave the West before he is killed in all manners of ways from ye olde Western days. Meanwhile, Liam Neeson’s mean and nasty outlaw, Clinch Leatherwood is leading his gang of bandits. After the meet, an old prospector Leatherwood, the gang kill and rob him for his gold.
In a nod to a similar cowboy role in an episode of Family Guy, Neeson keeps his own Irish accent. This the accent as adored by your mums and aunties in Love Actually (2003) and probably Jamie Lee Curtis’ character in A Fish Called Wanda (1988). An accent that even sounds even sexier in this role.
Leatherwood is accompanied by his pretty, sassy and good with a gun wife. His wife Anna (Theron) says she has fallen out of love with him and the West. She heads for town undercover with one of the bandits to lie low while Leatherwood carries on with his banditry.
Albert and Anna meet when he saves her from a perfect send up of a Western bar brawl depicting every stunt from every Western ever. After saving Anna from being flattened by some cowboys falling from the balcony, Albert and Anna both form a friendship leading to him telling her about his unrequited love for Louise.
At the country fair – Western film references abound – full of death and destruction, the couple bump into Foy
Howser MD and Louise. Albert shoots badly at a shooting booth shooting stall against Foy and after this and his baaaaaad goading of Foy, Albert challenges him to a duel.
This leads to…. in no particular order, a montage, duels, cliched romantic moments but perfectly acceptable here, more cameos, a isn’t that him cameo, a reference to Mila Kunis and a barn dance’. Not forgetting an apt musical number, the coolest cameo ever, Native Indians with subtitles, a what you initially think an odd cameo until you really think about it cameo, hallucinations, an unexpected cameo, a few poo jokes and the scene you may want to show your mum or auntie… Liam Neeson’s bare bottom.
I love this film, the parodies, writing and the cast especially the final cameo are spot on and fantastic. However, I do think there was one missed opportunity that this line was not used – possibly due to copyright reasons – as it could have fitted in and with only the one word changed is from daughter to wife, The line is of course, from Taken starring one Liam Neeson;
“but what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my wife (daughter) go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you”.
But then luckily for me, Darlin’ Husband can impersonate Mr Neeson. He can also do a great Sean Connery impression, but that’s another story.
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10
Hulk Rating: /10
This post was added to Thoughts All Sorts The Great Western blogathon Other reviews with this cast include Seth MacFarlane in Ted. Charlize Theron stars in The Devils Advocate and The Fate of the Furious. Amanda Seyfried stars in my posts on Mamma Mia and the sequel’s trailer Mamma Mia Here We Go Again. Giovanni Ribisi also stars in Ted and Lost in Translation.