Seth MacFarlane’s send up of the Western film genre — A Million Ways to Die in the West — has pulled in nearly $72 million in total worldwide gross after being in theaters for nearly a month. According to Box Office Mojo, this includes a total domestic gross of about $41 million, as well as nearly $31 million in international gross. Although it is not a runaway hit, the box office receipts for A Million Ways to Die in the West are well above the film’s $40 million production budget and will likely guarantee that MacFarlane will have a third shot at directing a feature comedy film.
While Ted, MacFarlane’s directorial debut, garnered generally positive reviews, the critical reception for A Million Ways to Die in the West has been more mixed. Some critics loathed the film, like RogerEbert.com’s Brian Tallerico, who called it “A failure on nearly every level.” Others, like The New York Times’ Stephen Holden, appeared to question MacFarlane’s decision to cast himself in the leading role and wondered if someone else could have given the character a “stronger personality.” Variety’s Scott Foundas also criticized MacFarlane’s performance, calling it “surprisingly bland.” Like many other reviewers, Foundas also criticized the nearly two-hour long running time of the film that he felt was “padded.” On the other hand, a fairly sympathetic review from Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir noted that A Million Ways to Die in the West “delivers a few laughs and keeps the guest stars coming. I don’t think it’s a ‘Ted’-scale hit, but it’s probably not a bomb.”
Fortunately for fans of Western-themed comedies, there are plenty of other films in this genre that have withstood the test of time and can be rented for less than the price of a movie ticket. Here are five classic comedy Westerns that you can watch instead of A Million Ways to Die in the West.
5. Way Out West (1937)
Starring the classic comedy duo of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, this film features Laurel and Hardy in an Old West setting. After a dying man gives Laurel and Hardy a valuable deed to a gold mine, the two bumbling men must deliver the deed to a poor orphan girl in a small Western town. While Way Out West is more of series of comedy sketches than it is a feature film, fans of Laurel and Hardy’s unique brand of slapstick comedy and wordplay will find plenty to laugh at in this classic Western comedy. Despite being made over seventy years ago, Way Out West is still a hit with critics and audiences alike, according to the 100 percent critics’ rating and 92 percent audience rating the film has maintained at Rotten Tomatoes.
4. Cat Ballou (1965)
This critically acclaimed musical comedy Western was also a box office hit. Starring Jane Fonda as the title character Cat Ballou, this film tells the story of a schoolteacher who is forced to become an outlaw in order to avenge her father’s death. Besides Fonda, the film also stars Western film veteran Lee Marvin, who plays two characters: a legendary, but alcoholic, gunfighter and his evil opponent. The film garnered five Academy Award nominations and secured Marvin an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
As far as the musical aspect, it’s hard to top the songs in this film that are performed by Stubby Kaye and Nat King Cole. Cat Ballou currently has a 75 percent audience rating and a 100 percent rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes.
3. Blazing Saddles (1974)
Any list of great comedy Westerns would be remiss if it failed to include Mel Brooks’ satirical spoof of clichéd Western films. Starring Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, and Mel Brooks, Blazing Saddles somehowmanages to successfully combine sharp critiques of racism with fart jokes into the same film. Besides achieving commercial success, Blazing Saddles was also a hit with the critics and garnered three Academy Award nominations, including a Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Madeline Kahn.
Roger Ebert called the film “a crazed grabbag of a movie that does everything to keep us laughing except hit us over the head with a rubber chicken.” Blazing Saddles currently has a 90 percent “Certified Fresh” rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes, while the audience approval rating stands at 91 percent.
2. City Slickers (1991)
Starring Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, Bruno Kirby, and Jack Palance, City Slickers tells the story of three middle-aged New Yorkers who decide to partake in a cattle drive as part of a Western experience vacation. After their guide suffers a fatal heart attack, the three inexperienced cowboys decide to proceed with the cattle drive in what becomes a life-defining experience.
As noted by Box Office Mojo, City Slickers was a smash hit and pulled in over $124 million in total domestic gross on a production budget of only $27 million. The film received mostly positive reviews from the critics and Jack Palance’s unforgettable portrayal of the intimidating trail boss Curly won him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. City Slickers currently has a 90 percent approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes. The success of City Slickers led to the 1994 sequel City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold. However, the less said about the sequel, the better.
1. Shanghai Noon (2000)
Kung fu comedy veteran Jackie Chan teamed up with Owen Wilson to make this fish-out-of-water tale about a Chinese imperial guard who travels to the Old West to rescue a kidnapped princess. While Shanghai Noon didn’t garner any Academy Award nominations, it was well received by the critics and pulled in nearly $99.3 million in total worldwide gross, according to Box Office Mojo. The film spawned a sequel, Shanghai Knights, which also garnered positive reviews and impressive box office receipts. Shanghai Noon currently has a 79 percent “Certified Fresh” rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes.
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