Review – Dying is Easy. Comedy is… (“A Million Ways To Die In The West”)

Family Guy‘s irreverent Seth MacFarlane has been waiting to make another raunchy hit comedy, and this time he’s set it in the Old West, circa 1882 Arizona. Consider this Blazing Saddles on crack.


Seth MacFarlane is Albert Stark, a sheep rancher in the town of Old Stump and is also a walking encyclopedia on what will kill you in the Old West, which according to Albert, is just about everything. He just broke up with his girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfried) because she couldn’t take his lack of courage. Apparently Albert backed out of a gunfight because he was afraid of shooting… or being shot, for that matter.

Down in the dumps, Albert seeks solace at the local saloon with his best friend, Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) who is painfully awkward, still a virgin, and is waiting to wed his busy Christian prostitute girlfriend (yes, you read that right), Ruth (Sarah Silverman). Things go from bad to worse when Albert sees Louise in the arms of Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), a wealthy businessman who owns the Moustachery, a upper-class place for men to groom their moustaches.  

Meanwhile, the Clinch Leatherwood Gang is in the area! Really nasty Clinch (Liam Neeson) tells his long-suffering wife, Anna (gorgeous Charlize Theron), to hide out in Old Stump until he comes back. But after a bar room fight breaks out (one of the most realistic one’s you’ll ever see!), Albert saves Anna’s life and a friendship begins. Albert laments to her about his women problems and Anna, feeling his pain, decides to help him get Louise back. And what better place than at the Town Fair, where Anna shows up Foy big time at trick shooting. Foy is disgraced and humiliates Albert in front of the townspeople, leading Albert to challenge Foy to a duel! This is a bad idea since Albert sucks at shooting.

Anna, wanting to see Albert win (and slowly falling for him the process), helps him in the art of shooting, in your typical montage, but stacks the deck by slipping Foy a powerful laxative. When the duel happens, Foy isn’t up to the gunfight (and for reasons that I best not print here) and can’t go through with it, but it doesn’t matter… Albert has fallen for Anna.

But there’s big time trouble when Clinch comes back into town for his wife and learns that someone has been fooling around with her! Uh-oh! Albert takes off for the hills, but finds his courage after drinking some psychedelic drugs with some rather hip Indians and their leader, Cochise (Wes Studi). He returns back to town to face his fears and battle the infamous Clinch for the woman he loves.

Pulling another hat trick with co-writing, co-producing, directing AND starring in another film (although in TED he voiced a CGI puppet, so technically he didn’t really star in it, per se), this film had me laughing SO much all the way through it, that I completely forgave the script’s inconsistencies, plot holes, story structure problems, and editing errors. The script is, essentially, an 1882 Western movie with people spouting 20th-Century profanity-laced jargon wrapped around some of the funniest sight gags I’ve ever seen, along with an extraordinary number of poop jokes; It was like watching an R-rated, F-bomb dropping two-hour Family Guy episode, but without the cutaways. Some scenes are unmercifully hysterical, while others are just plain wrong. Blame that on writers MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, and Wellesley Wild, all Family Guy writers, of course. They’re an acquired taste, to be sure. 

MacFarlane, sporting a Tin-Tin hairdo, comes across as a sort of grown up frat-boy with an occasional sweet side, however it’s his supporting team that really shines. Theron is just so lovable and natural here, it’s as if she’s just having fun with or without the script. Harris is a riot as the pompously moustached Foy who also leads the film’s dance number, “If You’ve Only Got A Moustache”. And Ribisi and Silverman are just the cutest, albeit weirdest pre-matrimonial couple you’ll ever see. Also, look for several cameos peppered in the film that are fun surprises, especially my favorite, which features a certain DeLorean car.

Blazing Saddles (1974)


Is there anybody on the planet who hasn’t seen this movie? Forever known as Mel Brooks masterpiece of comedy madness, this outrageous Western broke all the rules and set box office records ablaze. Brooks has even said that he wants to bring Blazing Saddles to Broadway! Hell, why not?! The wacky story of a black sheriff (the excellent Cleavon Little) bringing law and order to the town of Rock Ridge, and the unscrupulous Hedley Lamarr (perfectly cast Harvey Korman) who tries to stop him, is just pure comic genius.

Credited to five writers, including the late, great Richard Pryor, Brooks co-wrote, directed, and starred as not only an Indian chief, but as the crossed-eyed Governor William J. LePetomane, who decides, along with Lamarr, that hiring a black sheriff will forever cement his name in the chronicles of history. But the plan backfires as Sherrif Bart (Little) finds himself an ally in a recovering alcoholic and quick-draw master, The Waco Kid (Gene Wilder at his best). Even Lamarr’s cronies, like the dumb, but powerfully strong Mongo (Alex Karras) and the saloon girl, German song siren Lili Von Shtupp (Madeline Kahn, vamping like Marlene Dietrich, can’t stop the intrepid sheriff. Soon Bart and the Kid discover that the railroad is coming through the town and that’s why Lamarr wants the people to leave! In a wild and wacky ending, a fake facade town is built to keep the bad guys away, but all bets are off when a massive fight scene goes south (literally) in the Warner Bros studios backlot, to a gay dance routine in progress, and the streets of Burbank! Nobody saw that coming!

Did you know: That originally Sheriff Bart and The Waco Kid were supposed to Richard Pryor and John Wayne? Pryor was fired by the studio (drug use and always late) and Wayne didn’t like the script, saying it was “too dirty” for his clean-cut family image. Gene Wilder was brought in for Jim (aka The Waco Kid) after one day’s shooting because actor Gig Young was let go, due to his failing health.

Actress Hedy Lamarr actually sued for the lampooning of her name in the movie and apparently Brooks and Lamarr settled out of court “for a small sum”. Also, look for Brooks in a very brief cameo as a biker in the “initiation” scene when the camera is showing all the candidates for hire. Warner Bros. studio demanded that Brooks take out all the “n-words” and the “fart scene”, he refused to do since he had complete creative control (and final cut!) in his contract.

The original titles of the movie were Tex X, Purple Sage, and Black Bart.  The latter starred Louis Gosset, Jr. as Bart and Steve Landesberg as his drunkard sidekick, a former Confederate officer named Reb Jordan. Since Brooks had nothing to do with it, it sucked. You can see the pilot on YouTube and on special DVD’s and Blu-Rays.

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