Seth MacFarlane found fame in television, and in writing, directing, and starring in A Million Ways to Die in the West his tv roots show through a bit too much.  While the film's R rating gives him more opportunities for cursing and gross-out gags, it still feels like an extended episode.
Albert (Seth MacFarlane) lives in the small town of Old Stump, Arizona 1882 -- and he couldn't be in a worse place or time.  While everyone around him is violent and too ready for a gunfight, Albert is both intelligent and cowardly, preferring to negotiate and joke instead of kill.  As he puts it, "I'm not the hero; I'm the guy in the crowd making fun of the hero's shirt."  He's a sheep farmer -- and a bad one -- and his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) just left him for rich moustache merchant Foy (Neil Patrick Harris).  Albert's only friends are nervous virgin Edward (Giovanno Ribisi) and his busy prostitute fiancee Ruth (Sarah Silverman), who's screwing virtually everyone but Edward.  Albert gets some help from Anna (Charlize Theron), a beauty and killer shot who agrees to help Albert win Louise back.
But there's violence on the way.  Albert foolishly challenges Foy to a duel, leading to several training montages as Anna teaches Albert how to shoot.  Also, violent and abusive gunslinger-thief Clinch (Liam Neeson) is working his way to Old Stump -- where he sent his wife, Anna, earlier.  What happens next is, well, what you'd expect from both the romance and action angles.

There are some funny moments and performances through A Million Ways to Die in the West -- but there's far too much of MacFarlane's usual jokes.  There are tons of gross-out gags (from urinating animals to Ruth's messy profession), celebrity cameos (the best of which was revealed in several trailers), casual racism and sexism, and musical numbers scattered through the movie.  There aren't any real surprises in the movie, and the laughs are inconsistent.  MacFarlane is decent but not outstanding in the lead, Neil Patrick Harris is quite good as the pompous villain; and while Charlize Theron does well as a stronger woman, Amanda Seyfried is there to look pretty and be disliked.  And the Edward-Ruth storyline could be put anywhere in the movie, or removed entirely, without affecting the main story.
A Million Ways to Die in the West is full of curses, violence, and scatalogical humor.  It could have used more laughs -- and more than its R rating to differentiate it from MacFarlane's television cartoons.

Overall grade: C
Reviewed by James Lynch

1 comment:

Zach Murphy said...

Yeah, I feel like there are a couple of good sketches in there somewhere. But as a 2-hour movie, it's ugh...