A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Million Ways to Die in the West is a raunchy comedy from star-director-producer Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, Ted) that's guaranteed to appeal to teens, despite (or, frankly, because of) the extremely crude content. There's near-constant profanity, including crass terms for sex, genitalia, and sexual positions (as well as "f--k," "s--t," and all the other usual suspects). Although there's only one nude scene (a man's behind), there are tons of references to sex -- including prostitution, oral sex, and virginity -- throughout the movie. Characters drink, smoke, and do drugs (with some consequences shown for the latter). And as the title suggests, violence in the Wild West is the overarching theme of the story, so there are deaths due to gun and knife violence, random animal attacks, natural disasters, and more. Despite all of this, the movie does give its characters some redeeming qualities, and themes of friendship, real love, and believing in yourself run through the film.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Set in the 1882 Arizona frontier town of Old Stump, A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST starts off with Albert (Seth MacFarlane), a lovable loser of a sheep farmer, talking and joking his way out of a pistol duel. His act of cowardice leads his girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfried), to dump him in favor of mustache elixir impresario Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). Albert therefore believes he has nothing to live for in the West, where he believes there are literally millions of ways to die. Enter the mysterious Anna (Charlize Theron), who shows up in town and is quickly drawn to Albert, teaching him how to shoot like a pro and making Louise jealous. But the truth is that Anna is the unhappy wife of the West's most notorious bandit, Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson). What does that mean for Albert?
Is it any good?
MacFarlane's latest comedy is equal parts clever meta-Western, disgusting lowbrow comedy, even-more disgusting tribute to bodily fluids, and occasional showcase for talented comedic actors. It's not surprising, given MacFarlane's years of luring A-listers to guest voice on his animated shows, that the ensemble cast is so notable, including high-profile cameos and secondary characters (like Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman, who play Albert's reliable best friend, Edward, and his prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold girlfriend, Ruth, respectively). Unfortunately, the cast's talent and the laugh-out-loud moments are completely pulled under by the weight of the disgusting jokes, some of which are so cringe-worthy and crass that adult audiences will want to close their eyes lest they gag.
If diarrhea jokes, sheep penises, and semen are your thing, this is definitely the movie for you. But most likely the movie's unnecessary shock-value scenes will take away from what is every now and then a genuinely funny and even sweet story, leaving you alternately amused, revolted, grossed out, and downright disappointed. No doubt MacFarlane's many fans will flock to this like the sheep Albert tends, but others may want to pass on the bodily fluid-obsessed comedy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about gross-out humor and its role in movies. Who does that sort of comedy appeal to? When does it cross the line -- and who determines where that line falls?
A Million Ways to Die in the West has some positive messages, but do they get lost in the crude humor? Who's the intended audience for this movie? How can you tell?
Does this movie reinforce stereotypes, or does it make fun of them? Is it OK to make fun of a group if it's one of many targets? Why or why not?
- In theaters: May 30, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: October 7, 2014
- Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Charlize Theron
- Director: Seth MacFarlane
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 116 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong crude and sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug material
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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