For Movierob's Genre Grandeur on Western Crossovers, I am looking at Seth MacFarlane's guide to surviving the old west for all those who aren't Clint Eastwood, A Million Ways To Die In The West. It follows Albert Stark (MacFarlane), a sheep herder on the frontier who seems to be the only person that sees the west for what it is; a dangerous, disease infested, unforgiving shit hole. "Hell, this was Miss America in 1880...
After his girlfriend dumps him, Albert prepares to leave his hometown of Old Stump for San Francisco. But his plans are interrupted by the arrival of Anna (Charlize Theron), who shows him how to enjoy life. Unfortunately for Albert, Anna is married to Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), one of the most dangerous outlaws in the territory and he's none too happy about Albert spending time with his wife!
The story for A Million Ways To Die In The West began as a joke between MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild about how dangerous and depressing the old west must have been, as they watched Hang 'Em High. Using Jeff Guinn's book; The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral - And How It Changed The American West - long enough title do you think? - as an "invaluable resource" and by taking inspiration from classic westerns including Montana and the original 3:10 to Yuma, the three writers developed that joke into a script. In fact Guinn's book was the basis for many of the million ways to die that we see in the movie.
Filmed in and around New Mexico, the crew had to endure some extreme weather; hailstorms, blistering heat, arctic winds and torrential rain. But anyone who watches the movie has to admit that the location shoots were worth it for the incredible cinematography. The only thing distracting us from the beautiful views are certain antics like watching Albert take a water bottle to the face while riding a horse or becoming convinced a Prairie Dog knows he's high on pot. My favourite scene however, features a certain cameo that reminds me of my childhood. Many a weekend was spent with my (now deceased) Dad watching the Back To The Future trilogy, so it's great to see a certain "crazy, wild-eyed scientist" hiding some "new, specialised weather-sensing equipment" in a barn.
As a fan of both Family Guy and the Ted movies, I'm probably biased but I can't understand why critics gave this movie bad reviews. Not only is it laugh out loud funny, it's a look at the west that doesn't glamorise the setting like most westerns. Whereas Clint Eastwood's masterpiece, Unforgiven did so in a very serious fashion, A Million Ways (I cannot keep typing the full title) goes down the hilarious, disgusting route that MacFarlane is known for. And before anyone complains I'm not comparing this to Unforgiven, I'm just saying that both movies attack the same point (the west sucked!) from different angles.
Anyone reading this may assume that A Million Ways To Die In The West was the inspiration for the title of my blog and they would be wrong. Unfortunately the two things are unrelated, nothing more than a happy coincidence - although that Moustache song would be a great soundtrack should I ever make a TV show!
If you like westerns, Family Guy, Ted or all of the above, A Million Ways To Die In The West is definitely a movie you should check out. Why wouldn't you want to see a movie about so many horrible ways you can die? At the very least you'll see how far modern medicine has come since 1882, no more Blue Jays!
Don't forget to check out the other reviews in this month's Genre Grandeur, to see them on Movierob's site click here.
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