As subjective as comedy already is, sometimes a second viewing can hamper a first impression. When Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West came out back in May, I called it: “the second funniest film of the year.” It has now been one-upped by the likes of the clear winner: 22 Jump Street. Even Edge of Tomorrow and Guardians of the Galaxy have proved better. With plenty of the ribald MacFarlane humor, it just isn’t the gut-busting treat Ted still manages to be two years later. But now, A Million Ways to Die in the West is getting an unrated Blu-ray from Universal Home Entertainment on October 7.
In Old Stump, Arizona, in 1882, sheep farmer Albert Stark (MacFarlane) has just talked his way out of a duel. Due to his cowardice, his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) dumps him. He’s not only a coward, but also the worst sheep farmer around. Meanwhile, Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson) has just arrived on the outskirts of town with his gang of outlaws in tow, including his wife Anna (Charlize Theron). Anna is sent into Old Stump to pose as the new girl in town and takes Albert under her wing after he challenges Louise’s new beau Foy (Neil Patrick Harris) to a duel. Anna teaches Albert how to shoot a gun and fall in love, but not before Clinch catches word that someone is making the moves on his wife. Now there’s a million and one ways to die in the West.
When it comes to transfers, Universal may be hit and miss with their catalogue titles, but at least their new films continue to look spectacular. A Million Ways to Die in the West looks simply stunning in HD. It’s flawlessly presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Blacks are inky with no crush in sight. The landscape is as sprawling as you’d expect with plenty of depth. Colors take an extremely lifelike look with every minute costume and set design detail on full display. There are no other anomalies to speak of either. Banding and noise are completely absent.
The same goes for the English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. It’s fully enveloping, with every line of dialogue never getting drowned out by Joel McNeely’s rootin’ tootin’ score. My only quibble is during the mustache song where the vocals are underwhelming neutering what was originally one of the funniest sequences in the film. French and Spanish tracks are also available, along with subtitles in all three languages.
As for the special features, I was hoping for something a bit more, but what’s on hand is no slouch either. An audio commentary is available on both the unrated and theatrical versions of the film. MacFarlane, Theron, and co-writers/executive producers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, offer up plenty of laughs to fill the runtimes. Theron gets saddled as an unintentional moderator, which comes in handy as sometimes the boys seem to forget which of their movies they’re commentating.
Both an “Alternate Opening” (3:27) and “Alternate Ending” (:47) are available, but could have simply been part of the collection of “Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes.” Included here are: “My Job Sucks Too Alternate” (:32), “Blood Rag” (:19), “Albert & Edward Walk and Talk” (1:27), “Wrapped Candies – Extended” (:49), “Puns at the Shooting Gallery” (:26), “Barn Jokes – Extended” (1:28), and “Dream Sequences – Alts” (5:53). A “Gag Reel” (5:43) rounds out the additional footage.
Three making of features include: “Once Upon a Time in a Different West” (10:06) which is your basic behind-the-scenes; “A Fistful of Dirt… In Your Mouth” (10:49) covers the production and locations; and “The Good, the Bad and the Increasingly Decreasing Population” (6:41) reveals nearly every single cameo in the film. Do not watch this special feature before the movie.
A Million Ways to Die in the West may not reach the heights of the classic Blazing Saddles, but MacFarlane isn’t trying to make that kind of comedy. It is love it or hate it kind of humor and some jokes are stretched beyond the breaking point. MacFarlane and his co-writers may give the film an actual plot, but the now 135-minute runtime becomes even more excessive.
The best thing going for the film is that MacFarlane makes for a spry leading man. He has great chemistry with Theron, and you can tell he kept making her authentically laugh. Neeson has more screentime now, making him less underused and the cameos still get some of the biggest laughs. A Million Ways to Die in the West is far from the funniest movie of the year, but it has its moments of manic glee. MacFarlane fans will surely be adding this to their collection day one, and the presentation makes this a no-brainer. As for everyone else, tread lightly with expectations in check and you should find plenty to laugh at.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00KM9MP9I][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B005LAII1C]