Seth MacFarlane’s latest attempt to break onto the big screen may prove to be the final nail in his coffin. Though he enjoyed success with Ted, A Million Ways To Die In The West is indicative of the kind of lazy writing and toilet humour that point more to his last movie being a one-off than McFarlane being the next big thing in American comedy.
Wearing his perpetual trademark smirk, MacFarlane stars as Albert Stark, a self-aware sheep farmer in 1882 Arizona. After his schoolteacher girlfriend (Seyfried) dumps him for the oily proprietor of an upscale “mustachery,” (Neil Patrick Harris), Albert sets out to win her back, and in the process befriends new arrival in town Anna (Theron). What Anna isn’t telling him though, is that she is the wife of a notorious outlaw (Neeson, hamming it up) and is someting of an accomplished gunslinger herself.
In his first ever live-action role, MacFarlane appears unsettled and uncomfortable in front of the camera, and about halfway through the movie it becomes glaringly apparent that he and his co-writers have only brought about 20 minutes of material to fill an entire movie. Several of the jokes get used multiple times under different guises. Few of them get funnier after the first iteration; most become frustrating and annoying.
Whenever MacFarlane, who has enough trouble maintaining basic continuity, has to stage a fight or choreograph a musical number, the whole thing falls apart. By the time Liam Neeson shows up for the final showdown you’ll have actually stopped caring about the outcome of the story and will be praying for a speedy conclusion.Whether it’s because he spread himself too thin by writing, directing, producing and starring in the movie, or because he has honestly run out of steam, the faults of A Million Ways To Die In The West cannot be ignored and the blame must be pointed squarely at MacFarlane.
Even though the movie looks pretty enough, the glossy veneer of the Old West setting isn’t enough to paper over the fact that this is a comedy with very few genuine laughs. The support cast are largely wasted, given roles that are stereotypical at best and for much of its running time the unrefined script just ambles along, being tossed around like a tumbleweed on the plains.
Seth MacFarlane may contend that there are indeed a million ways to die in the west, but I’d wager few of them are as excruciating as having to watch a movie this bad. Avoid at all costs.
(Images courtesy Collider, Empire, Tumblr)