Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Million Ways to Fail Making A Good Western

May 28, 2014
   Thanks to my movie critic pal, Henry Beck, Kathy and I got to see a sneak preview of Seth MacFarlane's new Western, "A Million Ways to Die In The West." We saw it last night down at Tempe Marketplace (Harkins) and everyone in that theater wanted this film to work, which was cool. You could feel it.

   So, what's the verdict? Well, straight up, it's very funny (in parts) too long (two hours!) and at times doesn't know what kind of film it wants to be: the bad guy (Liam Neesam) gets an overly serious, not-funny-at-all, introduction-set-piece so we can see how bad-ass he is, but it totally takes us out of the non-stop satire. Picture a scene from "The Oxbow Incident" showing up in the beginning of "Blazing Saddles." This is eerily similar to what happened in last year's Lone Ranger when they tried to set up the bad guy with a gory scene of death and mutilation. And, I would venture, they both failed to create the desired effect: it's such a cliche, we're not in the mood to believe it, plus it isn't funny, so why's it even in there?

  As tennis great Rod Laver put it, "Go to the net, or stay behind the baseline—don't get caught in the middle." And in this case, we're smack-dab-in-the-middle of Clicheville: we've got cliche bad guys doing cliche stunts in a cliche setting (Hey guys, at this point, there must be some other location in the West BESIDES Monument Valley!). Plus, I am so tired of Bonanza Creek (outside Santa Fe) as a go to Western set (it was used extensively in "Cowboys & Aliens" and "The Lone Ranger" and now here). It's a piddly set, unworthy of a big, Western. Tired stuff, all done with great affection and respect, of course, but it's killing the genre deader than a door nail.

Charleze Theron is actually very good in this. Somehow, she manages to pull off a very difficult role and make it fly.

   Here's the review in Variety, which is dead on (sticking with the "Die" theme):

A Million Ways to Bomb In The West

"What you don’t expect from MacFarlane is a genteel, weightless genre parody that, even with its de rigueur parade of dick and fart jokes, is unlikely to offend anyone born after the gunfight at the O.K. Corral."
—Scott Foundas, Variety