Just as the Western genre as a whole has been lightly represented in the past 40 years, the subgenre of the Western comedy has also been rare. Maybe both have something to do with the fact that just over 40 years ago the greatest Western parody of all time was released. Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles will never be topped for the most laughs or most insight into the Western genre and its period setting. At the same time, it dropped the mic on so many conventions, tropes and problems of the genre and American history that it's been hard for the Western to make a proper comeback on the level that it was in its heydey.
Look at the box office stats and you'll see that Wild Wild West is still among the five highest grossing Westerns of at least the past three decades, so it's not like the genre is a huge moneymaker. What that means for Seth MacFarlane's new movie, A Million Ways to Die in the West, we'll just have to see. It looks like it aims to be the most politically incorrect and also the most raunchy Western comedy since Blazing Saddles, but will it be the funniest?
As we wait for its release this Friday, let's consider the other choices out there. ¡Three Amigos!, which repeats a good amount of Blazing Saddles humor on a tamer level, bombed when it came out but those of us who saw it as kids have grown up appreciating its silly jokes and how it set us up for both the Brooks movie and also silent cinema (I learned all about the Gish sisters at a young age thanks to Martin Short's character). But if we're going with nostalgic picks, I do believe The Apple Dumpling Gang also fits, though I haven't watched either of these in many years.
There's Gore Verbinski's Oscar-winning animated feature Rango, which is certainly the greatest comedic deconstruction of the Western post-Blazing Saddles, and that is one of the reasons that the director's follow-up, The Lone Ranger, was such a disappointment. Rango might be more clever than funny, though. I have a big soft spot for Shanghai Noon, as Owen Wilson is enjoyably goofy and Jackie Chan was still doing some terrific stunts then, some of which were inspired by Buster Keaton.
You have to have a good steam locomotive-based homage to The General in any Western comedy worth a damn. I think the one in Back to the Future Part III counts, too. And like most of those I've mentioned, that third BttF movie is really underrated and really quite funny as both a part of the trilogy and, on its own, a play on the Western genre.
What's the best Western comedy since Blazing Saddles?
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