A Million Ways to Die in the West

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A Million Ways to Die in the West
Three people dressed in Western style. On the left in the background a man dressed in dark colors with a gun held high. In the centre a man in a blue shirt with a brown waistcoat, and to his right a blonde woman
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Seth MacFarlane
Produced by
Written by
Starring
Narrated by Rex Linn
Music by Joel McNeely
Cinematography Michael Barrett
Edited by Jeff Freeman
Production
  company
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s)
  • May 30, 2014 (2014-05-30)
Running time 116 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $40 million[2]
Box office $84,420,965[3]

A Million Ways to Die in the West is a 2014 American western comedy film written and produced by Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, and Wellesley Wild. Directed by and starring MacFarlane himself, the film features an ensemble cast also including Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, and Liam Neeson. Produced by Media Rights Capital and distributed by Universal Pictures,[4][5] the film was released on May 30, 2014[6][7] to mixed reviews from critics.

Plot[edit]

In 1882, in the town of Old Stump, Arizona, cowardly sheep farmer Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) is dumped by his beloved girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) as a result of his withdrawal from a duel. He prepares to leave for San Francisco, believing that the frontier holds nothing for him. Meanwhile, infamous outlaw Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson) robs and kills an old prospector for a nugget of gold. He orders one of his men, Lewis (Evan Jones) to escort his wife Anna (Charlize Theron) to Old Stump to lie low while he continues his banditry. Lewis and Anna arrive in town under the guise of two siblings intending to build a farm, but Lewis is arrested after inciting a bar brawl. During the fight, Albert saves Anna from being crushed by two of the brawlers and the two form a friendship. They attend a county fair where Louise's new boyfriend Foy (Neil Patrick Harris) challenges Albert to a shooting contest. Albert is defeated, but Anna steps up and defeats Foy. Foy begins insulting Albert who angrily challenges Foy to a duel in a week's time.

Anna teaches Albert how to shoot. During a dance the night before the duel, Anna slips Foy a Mickey. After leaving the dance, Albert and Anna kiss before heading home. Upon breaking out of jail and murdering the sheriff (Rex Linn), Lewis sees this and reports it to Clinch. The day of the duel comes and Foy arrives late and goes into extreme convulsions due to the laxative in the Mickey. Albert, who has decided that Louise is not worth the trouble, once again forfeits the duel. He retires to the local saloon, but Clinch arrives and demands to know who kissed his wife. When no one comes forward, Clinch shoots a nearby cowboy (Ryan Reynolds). He reveals that Anna is his wife and threatens to continue killing unless his wife's lover duels him at noon the next day. Clinch later forces Anna to reveal Albert's name and then prepares to rape her, but she knocks him unconscious while his back is turned and escapes.

Anna returns to Albert's farm where he confronts her. Clinch pursues Anna to the farm and recaptures her, but Albert escapes. During his attempt to flee, he is ambushed by a tribe of Native Americans who threaten to burn him to death, but they spare him when he reveals that he can speak their language. They give him a bowl of Peyote, which sends him flashing back to his birth and through traumatic events of his childhood before making him realize that he loves Anna. Albert returns to Old Stump and confronts Clinch. He wounds Clinch with a bullet poisoned with rattlesnake venom before having his own gun shot out of his hand, but manages to stall until Clinch succumbs to the poison and dies. Louise attempts to win back Albert, but he rejects her and instead enters a relationship with Anna. Albert also receives a bounty for killing Clinch and uses the money to buy more sheep.

Finally, the man in charge of a shooting game at the fair asks who would like to take a shot. Django Freeman (Jamie Foxx) steps up and shoots the proprietor.

Cast[edit]

Cameos[edit]

Production[edit]

A Million Ways to Die in the West originated as an inside joke between MacFarlane and co-writers Sulkin and Wild, who are also writers on Family Guy and co-wrote Ted. The joke evolved into "riffing on the idea of how dull, depressing, and dangerous it must have been to live in the Wild West."[18] It was conceived while they were watching Hang 'Em High.[19] MacFarlane, a lifelong fan of westerns, began researching the topic, using Jeff Guinn's nonfiction novel, The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral — And How It Changed the American West as an "invaluable resource," and basis for many of the ways of dying in the film.[18] Various aspects of the film were inspired by real westerns. The decision to make Albert a sheep herder was inspired by Montana (1950) and his average, non-confrontational demeanor by 3:10 to Yuma (1957).[20] Other westerns that inspired MacFarlane and the crew during writing included Oklahoma! (1955), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), and El Dorado (1966).[20]

The film was first announced on December 3, 2012, marking MacFarlane's second foray into live-action directing, after 2012's Ted.[21] On January 30, 2013, it was announced that Charlize Theron had joined the film.[22] Theron later revealed that she "begged" for her role.[23] On February 11, it was announced Amanda Seyfried had joined the film.[24] On March 6, it was announced Liam Neeson and Giovanni Ribisi had joined the film.[25] On March 18, it was announced that Sarah Silverman was cast to play a prostitute in the film.[26] On May 10, it was announced that the film would be co-financed by Media Rights Capital and Fuzzy Door Productions, along with Bluegrass Films and distributed by Universal Studios.[27] On May 29, 2013, MacFarlane announced that Bill Maher had joined the cast.[16] On February 21, 2014, he announced that Gilbert Gottfried had also joined the cast.[14]

Principal photography began on May 6, 2013.[28][29] Filming locations included various areas in and around Albuquerque, New Mexico,[30] also including the Santa Fe Studio in Santa Fe.[31] Principal photography ended on August 9, 2013.[32] The film shoot was difficult, as the cast and crew navigated rough weather: "everything from hailstorms to blistering heat to arctic winds and torrential rainstorms."[18]

Release[edit]

Marketing[edit]

On January 27, 2014, MacFarlane announced that he wrote a companion novel based on the film's script, which was released on March 4, 2014.[33][34] An audio-book version was also made available, narrated by Jonathan Frakes.[35] MacFarlane wrote the book on weekends during shooting for the film, partially due to boredom.[18]

Critical response[edit]

A Million Ways to Die in the West received mixed reviews.[36][37] Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 33% rating based on 180 reviews, with an average score of 4.9/10; the site's consensus states, "While it offers a few laughs and boasts a talented cast, Seth MacFarlane's overlong, aimless A Million Ways to Die in the West is a disappointingly scattershot affair."[38] Another review aggregation website, Metacritic, gave a score of 45 out of 100 based on 42 reviews, indicating 'mixed or average reviews'.[36]

Claudia Puig's review in USA Today was largely positive, writing, "A Western with a contemporary sensibility and dialogue that sounds markedly modern, A Million Ways to Die in the West is quintessential MacFarlane, at once silly and witty, juvenile and clever."[39] Stephen Holden's review in The New York Times was mainly neutral, calling the film "a live-action spinoff of [Family Guy], with different characters."[40] "While the whole thing feels weirdly miscalculated to me, A Million Ways to Die in the West tweaks the formula just enough, delivers a few laughs and keeps the guest stars coming," wrote Salon columnist Andrew O'Hehir.[41] Rafer Guzman of Newsday found the film amusing, calling it "another example of MacFarlane's ability to mix poop jokes with romance, foul language with sweet sentiment, offensive humor with boyish charm."[42]

In a more mixed review, Scott Mendelson of Forbes commended MacFarlane's decision to make an unconventional western comedy, but summarized the film as "just ambitious enough for that to be genuinely disappointing."[43] Michael O'Sullivan at The Washington Post was mixed, deeming the film a "broad, wildly hit-or-miss satire," remarking that few of many jokes in the film he found funny.[44] "Spiritually, it's closer to a mid-range crowd-pleaser such as City Slickers than Blazing Saddles, too enamoured of genre convention to reach for the comic dynamite," wrote Mike McCahill at The Guardian.[45]

Much of the film's mixed reviews focused on its writing, running time, and MacFarlane's debut live-action performance. Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune, in a scathing review of the film, derided MacFarlane's acting and direction: "What we have here is a failure of craft. He can't direct action, or even handle scenery well. He can't set up a visual joke properly without resorting to head-butting and bone-crunching, and he doesn't know how, or when, to move his camera. He's not good enough as a romantic lead to anchor a picture."[46] Richard Corliss of Time called the film a "sagebrush comedy whose visual grandeur and appealing actors get polluted by some astonishingly lazy writing."[46] Scott Foundas of Variety found the film "overlong and uninspired," criticizing the film's "lazy writing," and MacFarlane's "surprisingly bland" comic performance.[47]

Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald gave the film one star, commenting, "There are enough laughs scattered throughout A Million Ways to Die in the West that while you're watching it, the movie seems like a passable comedy. By the time you get home, though, you can barely remember the jokes."[48] John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter criticized the film's running time: "Though the film is hardly laugh-free, its uneven jokes appear to have breezed through a very forgiving editing process."[49] Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal too found the film's length "exhausting," noting, "Some of it sputters, settling for smiles instead of laughs, and much of it flounders while the slapdash script searches [...] for ever more common denominators in toilet humor."[50]

Audiences surveyed during the opening weekend gave the film a CinemaScore "B" grade. The audience demographics were primarily male (55 percent) and over 25 years of age (72 percent).[51]

Box office[edit]

As of July 20, 2014, A Million Ways to Die in the West has grossed $42.7 million in North America, and $41.7 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $84.4 million.[3] The film grossed $16.8 million in its opening weekend, finishing in third place at the box office behind fellow newcomer Maleficent and X-Men: Days of Future Past.[3] This was below expectations of $26 million.[52] In its second weekend, the film dropped to number five, grossing an additional $7.3 million.[53] In its third weekend, the film dropped to number eight, grossing $3.2 million.[54] In its fourth weekend, the film dropped to number 11, grossing $1.6 million.[55]

Home media[edit]

A Million Ways to Die in the West will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on September 9, 2014.[56]

Soundtrack[edit]

A Million Ways to Die in the West
Soundtrack album by Joel McNeely
Released May 27, 2014
Recorded 2014
Genre Film score
Length 41:20
Label Back Lot Music
Joel McNeely film scores chronology
The Pirate Fairy
(2014)
A Million Ways to Die in the West
(2014)
Home
(2015)

The score was composed by Joel McNeely. The soundtrack was released by Back Lot Music on May 27, 2014.[57] The theme song "A Million Ways to Die" is performed by Alan Jackson. It was released as a single on April 29, 2014.[58] A portion of the Back to the Future theme by Alan Silvestri is used during Doc Brown's cameo.[13]

Track listing

All music composed by Joel McNeely, except as noted.

No. Title Length
1. "A Million Ways to Die" (performed by Alan Jackson) 2:27
2. "Main Title"   2:33
3. "Missing Louise"   2:08
4. "Old Stump"   0:45
5. "Saloon Brawl"   1:50
6. "Rattlesnake Ridge"   1:28
7. "People Die at the Fair"   2:11
8. "The Shooting Lesson"   2:16
9. "The Barn Dance"   2:29
10. "If You’ve Only Got a Moustache" (performed by Amick Byram) 1:31
11. "Anna and Albert"   4:19
12. "Clinch Hunts Albert"   3:41
13. "Racing the Train"   2:21
14. "Captured by Cochise"   2:07
15. "Albert Takes a Trip"   2:24
16. "The Showdown"   2:20
17. "Sheep to the Horizon"   2:00
18. "End Title Suite"   2:30
Total length:
41:20

References[edit]

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  3. ^ a b c "A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)". Box Office Mojo. IMDB. July 20, 2014. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
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  5. ^ Collura, Scott. "Sarah Silverman for MacFarlane's A Million Ways to Die in the West". IGN. Retrieved May 9, 2013. 
  6. ^ Taylor, Amanda (May 10, 2013). "'A Million Ways to Die in the West' gets summer 2014 release date". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 11, 2013. 
  7. ^ Fox, Jesse David (May 11, 2013). "Neil Patrick Harris Joins Seth MacFarlane's A Million Ways to Die in the West". Vulture. 
  8. ^ Shaw-Williams, Hannah (February 3, 2014). "‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’ Trailer Has a Whole Lot of Death". Screen Rant. Retrieved February 5, 2014. 
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  10. ^ a b "Liam Neeson & Giovanni Ribisi Join ‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’". Screen Rant. Retrieved August 10, 2013. 
  11. ^ Quinlan, Erin (May 21, 2014). "Neil Patrick Harris taps 'stache of talent in 'Million Ways to Die'". Today.
  12. ^ "Wes Studi to Be Second American Indian Inducted into 'Hall of Great Western Performers'". Indian Country Today Media Network. April 19, 2013. Retrieved May 27, 2014. 
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  19. ^ A Million Ways to Die in the West Biographies
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  29. ^ Heisel, Angela (April 3, 2013). "The New Mexico Film Office Announces "A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST" to film in New Mexico". New Mexico Film Office. 
  30. ^ MacFarlane, Seth (April 23, 2013). "Filming A Million Ways to Die in the West. Fun being in a climate where you have to drink 9,000 glasses of water a day or you drop dead.". Twitter. 
  31. ^ Gomez, Adrian (May 12, 2013). "Star-studded N.M. offers TV series, movies new incentives". ABQjournal. 
  32. ^ MacFarlane, Seth (August 9, 2013). "Last day of filming on A Million Ways to Die in the West -- thanks to a cast and crew as talented as they are tireless.". Twitter. 
  33. ^ MacFarlane, Seth (January 27, 2014). "For anyone who still reads". Twitter. 
  34. ^ Gibson, Megan (January 28, 2014). "Seth MacFarlane Writes His First Novel". Time. 
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  37. ^ Faughnder, Ryan (May 29, 2014). "'Maleficent' likely to curse 'A Million Ways to Die in the West'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 12, 2014. "both be hampered by mixed reviews from critics" 
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  44. ^ Michael O’Sullivan (May 29, 2014). "'A Million Ways to Die in the West' movie review". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 29, 2014. 
  45. ^ Mike McCahill (May 29, 2014). "A Million Ways to Die in the West review – more City Slickers than Blazing Saddles". The Guardian. Retrieved May 29, 2014. 
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  47. ^ Scott Foundas (May 28, 2014). "Film Review: ‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’". Variety. Retrieved May 29, 2014. 
  48. ^ Rene Rodriguez (May 29, 2014). "'A Million Ways to Die in the West'". Miami Herald. Retrieved May 29, 2014. 
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  50. ^ Joe Morgensternn (May 29, 2014). "'We Are the Best!': Delicious Discord in the Key of Life". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 29, 2014. 
  51. ^ Ray Subers (June 1, 2014). "Weekend Report: 'Maleficent' Casts Box Office Spell, 'Million Ways' Dies". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 12, 2014. 
  52. ^ Ray Subers (May 29, 2014). "Forecast: 'Maleficent' Set to Reign On Final Weekend of May". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 12, 2014. "Universal is expecting low $20 millions" 
  53. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for June 6-8, 2014". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2014-06-17. 
  54. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for June 13-15, 2014". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2014-06-15. 
  55. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for June 20-22, 2014". Box Office Mojo. 2014-03-07. Retrieved 2014-07-04. 
  56. ^ "A Million Ways to Die in the West Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved 2014-07-20. 
  57. ^ "‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’ Soundtrack Details". Film Music Reporter. May 13, 2014. Retrieved May 22, 2014. 
  58. ^ Staskiewicz, Keith (April 28, 2014). "Seth MacFarlane's galloping theme song for 'A Million Ways to Die in the West': Hear the Alan Jackson tune -- EXCLUSIVE". Entertainment Weekly. 

External links[edit]