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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Arizona 1882

A Million Ways 
to Die in the West

Plot Overview

In the [nonexistent] shadow of the “big stump on the edge of town where they have gun­fights,” rancher Charlie Blanche (Brett Rickaby) is fixin' to settle a score on account of, “Your g.d. sheep grazed up half my ranch, Stark!” Sheep farmer Albert Stark (Seth Mac­Far­lane) arriving late tries to negotiate with him: “Is there any­thing at all I can say to get you to call this off?” The only thing that gets called off is Albert's engage­ment to the lovely Louise (Amanda Seyfried) after she witnesses her man backing down. The problem with sheep herding is they tend to wander off (“Your sheep are every place”), so the only way a shepherd has of protecting his invest­ment is to maintain a reputation dangerous enough that folks won't help them­selves to some convenient mutton. Marrying a “pussy” of a sheep herder seems a poor risk to Louise.

Albert's father George (Christopher Hagen) taught him from birth that the world is not a welcoming place, purged him of child­hood fantasies, and forced him to be coldly pragmatic. George spends all his time reading, so Albert followed his example and became a nerd. Further­more, Albert didn't demur from learning from unlikely sources, including a woman sharp­shooter, a famous Indian chief, and a time traveler from the future—in a mixup of movie genres. So when the inevit­able critical gun­fight occurs between him and notor­ious out­law Clinch Leather­wood (Liam Neeson), one can't help but be reminded of the fight at the end of Johnny Cash's song, “A Boy Named Sue.” The rotten old man who named him Sue concedes that he put up one helluva fight, telling him he's fought tougher men, but he really can't remember when. Sure, there's better gun­fighters than nerd Albert, but I can't think of any.

In the old west, “a hard land for hard folk,” a white boy's key to success is education. As pragmatic back­ground, “A Million Ways to Die in the West” depicts a woman's key to sur­vival as remaining a virgin until she marries—or as long as she's able—and then being submissive to her husband—as much as she's able. The Red Man's, Indian's, key is to be care­ful whom he trusts in negoti­ations. And the black man's success, who is now emancipated, is in his physical prowess.


In Old Stump Township (founded 1866) life is a bitch and then you die. “A Million Ways” depicts its hard­ships. For dinner they eat beans. I checked my pantry for comparison and found cans of Van Camp's Baked Beans (since 1861). The recipe is labeled Original and included is a message to “Get Involved” with Child Hunger Ends Here. You've come a long way, baby!

It seems to me there's a lot of people needing our prayers if we're to do our Christian duty as it says in 1Tim. 2:1, and especially to pray for our leaders, per 1Tim. 2:2, if we want peaceable, honest, godly lives. The poor Mayor of Old Stump sure didn't have any­one concerned about his dead body, and Abraham Lincoln (Gilbert Gott­fried) in a flash­back speech didn't have the makings of a president unless some­one took to praying for him.

Paul tells us in (1 Tim. 2:8) “I will therefore that men pray every­where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” If praying is talking to God, then the formula is to be animated enough to talk with one's hands. Albert “lifted up his hands” to the sun in order to make shadow puppets to enter­tain his itchy opponent and defuse his anger. He lifted up his hands “with­out wrath” (“Let's get in position”) with his buddy Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) in mock combat at a bar­room brawl to fake out the rioters. And at a peyote ceremony he lifted up his gun hand “without doubting” to handle a venomous snake.

bustle Women are also to express their holiness in the physical sphere: (1Tim. 2:9–10) “In like manner also, that women adorn them­selves in modest apparel, with shame­fast­ness and sobriety, not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array, but (which becometh women pro­fes­sing god­li­ness) with good works.” Louise “with broidered hair” required an “expensive dress,” but Albert's new girl Anna (Charlize Theron) was full of good works. The “modest apparel” of a bustle skirt, forming a false fat fanny to obscure the female form, was elaborated on in the movie.
Fanny Crosby
“Shame­fast­ness” was discussed at length regarding the photographs of the time in which nobody ever smiled (“Hold still, now.”)  NOTE: The 1611 King James trans­lators used the word shame­fast­ness, but printers later sub­sti­tuted the alter­nate shame­faced­ness of the same meaning, which latter has now through use passed into our general English vocabulary, e.g. “Mark looked shame-faced at Artie, then stood up, took a few steps, and sat back down” (Robinson 281). I used the original, because it was reinstated in the 1873 Cambridge Para­graph Bible, and more recently in the New Cambridge Para­graph Bible. We're shown a picture of Miss America, circa 1882, dressed head to toe in loose black garments with a stern expression on her face.

For what it's worth, the preacher in a self-centered sermon makes a vague reference to the Bible that he says will support him, rather than conforming his sermon to what it actually says. Edward before engaging in premarital sex, says, “Okay, I'm gonna close the bible now.” This attitude of disregard for the Bible comes in 1882. But it was during 1881–85 that the first actual revision of the King James Version (KJV) occurred in the (British) Revised Version, opening the door to later revisions of dubious value. The (New) Cambridge Para­graph Bible is the reliable one, keeping pace with the English language (2011), and it's still the KJV.

Production Values

“A Million Ways to Die in the West” (2014) was directed by Seth MacFarlane. It was written by Seth Mac­Far­lane, Alec Sulkin and Welles­ley Wild. It stars Seth Mac­Far­lane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Neil Patrick Harris, and Amanda Seyfried, every­one holding up his or her end. Its opening scenes of Monument Valley were awe­some and the pseudo-theme music evoked Dmitri Tiomkin scores. A cute number, “If You've Only Got a Moustache,” written by Stephen Foster (Additional Lyrics by Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Welles­ley Wild), was performed by Amick Byram.

The movie was rated R for strong crude and sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug material. This is not a kiddie flick, and I dare­say some adults will even be put off by it. Clever jokes abound, alternating with crude comedic material, and some­times it was more like stand-up comedy. The carnival consumer shooting game called “Run­away Slave” might put some people off. Even in the movie it was remarked, “That seems unnecessary. What's wrong with ducks, or rabbits, or some­thing?” I've got a banner hung out­side my window saying, "GO DUCKS!" our mascot. I think it helps to take a historical perspective.

Review Conclusion w/ Consumer Recommendation

I really enjoyed “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” but I'm easy to please. It doesn't follow the set western formula, so if that's what you're looking for, you better look else­where. It's a mixture of modern philosophy with Holly­wood western values in a fresh product. For some­thing new and different, try this one.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Absolutely amazing special effects. Video Occasion: Good for Groups. Suspense: Several suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Four stars out of Five.

Works Cited

Scripture taken from The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible. KJV Pub. 1611, rev. 1769, 2005, 2011. Software, print.

Robinson, Frank M. Waiting. New York: Tom Doherty Assoc., 1999. Print.