Go west, young comic: ‘Million Ways’ should learn from ‘Blazing Saddles’

It’s been a long time since American movie audiences have saddled up and gone out to a big-screen comic western. “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane is trying to make them do just that with “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” which opens Friday. MacFarlane plays an amiable coward in a pioneer town where death lurks behind every pratfall. Neil Patrick Harris, Amanda Seyfried, Charlize Theron and Liam Neeson also star.

Convincing moviegoers to find a home on the range won’t be easy. The last genuine success on the comic side of the genre came 40 years ago with the much-beloved “Blazing Saddles.”

“They can’t make that movie today because everybody’s so politically correct,” director Mel Brooks told Yahoo! Movies about the classic film.

He expanded on that idea with HitFix: “Comedy has to be outrageous. It has to be the jester whispering the most salacious things about that dancing girl into the king’s ear.” Seth MacFarlane agrees with Brooks: “I think comedy should not be polite. Comedy should be risky.”

MacFarlane’s tastes lean toward the rude and the randy, but he could take a few lessons from Brooks and his “Blazing” frontier farce.

Know your western clichés
In “Blazing Saddles,” Frankie Laine belts out the hilariously painful similes of the spoofing theme song (“He rode a blazing saddle…”) with the same gravity he brought to “The Gunfight at O.K. Corral,” “3:10 to Yuma” and all the other leathery tunes he sang for the classic westerns. That sets the stage for a film that never met a cowboy convention it didn’t lovingly skewer. Brooks’ goofs on Gabby Hayes and Randolph Scott may be lost on modern audiences but MacFarlane has a whole new generation of westerns to lampoon, from “Dances With Wolves” to “Unforgiven” to “Deadwood.”

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