“I know this is going to sound a little harsh, but I find MacFarlane funnier when I can’t see him.”
Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) is a pretty useless sheep farmer who lives in Arizona circa 1882. He despises the frontier and decries the poor conditions at every opportunity. He’s so consumed with hate for where he lives that it seems to have stifled his ambition, and all he wants to do is bitch and moan. Things get so bad that his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) dumps him within the first five minutes of the film. He goes boozing with his pals Edward (Giovanni Ribisi), who is the sweet, simple one, and Edward’s girlfriend Ruth (Sarah Silverman), who also seems to be simple, but not all that sweet, because she’s a prostitute and she’s probably in actuality pretty sour on the inside.
New girl (or should I say, woman) Anna (Charlize Theron) then rolls into town and befriends Albert. In another montage (lots of them around lately) she teaches him how to shoot so he may protect himself against Louise’s new beau, a wonderfully moustachioed entrepreneur called Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), because Albert, in a ridiculous move, had challenged him to a duel. Naturally, over the course of the gun-toting montage, Albert and Anna begin to fall for one another. Things, however, don’t go according to plan due to the arrival of Anna’s dangerous outlaw husband Clinch (Liam Neeson), who obviously wants to kill Albert for macking on his missus.
Where to begin? Written by, produced by, directed by and starring Seth MacFarlane, A Million Ways To Die In The West is probably the best example of self-insertion I’ve witnessed since I read that Twilight book. Albert is a self-professed nerd. Albert takes every opportunity he can to ensure that anyone who will listen is awed by his vocabulary and quick wit. Albert needs a lot of reassurance and the kick-ass female lead reminds him constantly of how amazing he is, what a catch he is and how his ex is insane for letting him go. Albert gets to outwit these hardened, homicidal cowboys at every turn. Albert gets the girl of his dreams and then gets to rebuff the one who had rejected him earlier. Yawn.
Seth MacFarlane’s performance, as you can probably guess by now, I found a little irritating. He seemed acutely aware of the camera, which, in honesty, is probably to be expected considering he spends most of his time behind it. I know this is going to sound a little harsh, but I find MacFarlane funnier when I can’t see him. Charlize Theron (Monster, Prometheus) did what she could with what she was given, though I often found that her laughter sounded overly forced. Sarah Silverman (Wreck-It Ralph, Bob’s Burgers) did her thing and talked about her lady-parts a lot. Amanda Seyfried (Lovelace, Les Miserables) was just there for pretty scenery, and Liam Neeson (Taken, Batman Begins) was, well, he was Liam Neeson.
The only bright(ish) star I could see shining through the gloom was probably Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), whose portrayal of Foy was what coaxed the biggest chuckles from yours truly.
I happen to think MacFarlane is a very talented fellow. I watch Family Guy and American Dad regularly. I enjoyed the stuffing out of Ted. A Million Ways To Die In The West though, just did not work for me. The kind of hit-and-miss humour employed works well in the media of television. If there’s a below par episode of Family Guy it’s not a big deal, because you’ve only wasted twenty-two minutes of your life and you know the next one could totally tickle your funny bone. I think farts are funny and I like stupid toilet humour, but not two hours of it. Not when the sum of the entire piece is just one giant flatulence gag. It appears that I only like my doses of MacFarlane when he’s taking the reigns behind the camera.
This is a poor story, poorly executed, and not nearly as clever as MacFarlane thinks it is. If, like me, you like a nice dollop of juvenile humour in your day, I still wouldn’t recommend you spend your hard-earned spondoolies on this in the theatres. If you really want to sate your curiosity, just wait for the rental. Trust me, all you’re missing is a man getting blasted with sheep piddle and NPH sharting into a Stetson.
IMDB Rating: 6.3
Do I agree?: No. It’s a 4, at best. Unambitious, uninspired and contrived.