‘Million Ways to Die in the West’ hysterical

Movie review lingo is a funny thing. If I were to call Seth MacFarlane’s “A Million Ways to Die in the West” a “sophomoric effort,” I would be saying that it’s overconfident and immature. Conversely, if I were to say, “Seth MacFarlane’s sophomore effort” I would be referring to his second feature film as a producer and director.

James Gerstner works at Fort Hays State University Foundation.

James Gerstner works at Fort Hays State University Foundation.

I would argue against calling “Million Ways” sophomoric. The humor is crude to be sure, but like MacFarlane’s other comedic endeavors (such as “Family Guy”, “American Dad” or “Ted”) it is intelligent, exceedingly referential and consistently hysterical. That said, one’s enjoyment of “Family Guy” is very predictive of one’s enjoyment of “Million Ways to Die.” There aren’t nonsensical cutaways like in “Family Guy” but the humor retains the same breakneck pace and self-awareness that some find displeasing.

The openings minutes of the film are very slow and are preceded by an out-of-place title sequence that sets an initial tone which is very contrary to the rest of the film. Once the odd opening is out of the way the laughs start to arrive by the trainload.

MacFarlane is well known and well respected as a voice actor. In “Million Ways to Die” he makes his on-camera debut to great effect. The physicality of MacFarlane’s humor is just as apparent when he is in front of the camera as when he is behind it. One of the keys, in this reviewer’s opinion, to good comedy is a multifaceted approach. Comedians, television shows and films that repeat one style of joke over and over again get bland very fast. “A Million Ways to Die in the West” offers just about as many ways to land a joke as the title suggest there are ways to die.

With summer now in full swing, this is the R-rated comedy to beat.

5 of 6 stars

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