A Lot of Ways to Die in the West, but Only a Few to Laugh
The good thing about sitting down to watch a Seth MacFarlane movie/TV show is that you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.
The bad thing about sitting down to watch a Seth MacFarlane movie/TV show is that you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.
Whether it’s his long-running “Family Guy,” 2012’s “Ted” or his one-year stint as host of the Academy Awards, you know there are going to be people laughing at everything because it’s Seth MacFarlane and that’s just what’s expected; there will be those who are offended by everything because it’s Seth MacFarlane and that’s just what’s expected; and there are a select few that are able to look past those preconceptions and realize you get almost equal parts offensiveness and humor … because it’s Seth MacFarlane.
Such is the case with “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” MacFarlane’s second directorial feature film and his first as a leading man.
(L to R) Louise (Amanda Seyfried), Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), Albert (Seth MacFarlane) and Anna (Charlize Theron) in “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” the new comedy from director, producer and co-writer MacFarlane, who plays a formerly cowardly sheep farmer who must put his newfound courage to the test. (Photo Credit: Lorey Sebastian Copyright: © 2014 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)
MacFarlane stars as Albert Stark – a sheepish sheep farmer living in 1880s-era Arizona. After his cowardice attitude toward gunfights gets him dumped by his girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfried), and a subsequent night of drinking with best friend Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) and his prostitute girlfriend, Ruth (Sarah Silverman), Albert decides it’s time to get out of the wild wild west.
But before he can make his great escape he meets Anna (Charlize Theron), the new girl in town who conveniently leaves out that she’s married to the territory’s most dangerous gunman, Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson).
While helping Albert make Louise jealous, and training him to confront her new love interest, Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), sparks fly between the two.
Will Albert be man enough to get the girl or will he find the 1,000,001 way to die in the west?
There’s a lot to like about “A Million Ways” – at least on paper. The cast – aside from a truly established male lead – is top-notch, with Ribisi stealing the show like he did in “Ted;” the idea of a western-themed comedy isn’t something that’s been played to death; and when you’re looking for R-rated comedy, there are few people I’d rank above MacFarlane.
But despite all of those potential positives, the film just falls short.
Like with “Family Guy,” the jokes that stick are really good and the ones that don’t are really, really bad. Sadly, for many, the ones that stick are also the most offensive – if you’re easily offended this probably isn’t the movie for you.
The story, while light and original, never really gets to flow because of all of the jokes and what appear to be “Family Guy”-esque live-action cut scenes that don’t let things develop with a natural feel.
Because of the amount of flat jokes and disjointed script/story, the cast isn’t given a real chance to shine, which is a shame because there’s a lot of very funny and talented people here. For me, again it’s all about Ribisi, who can pull off creepy and/or a little weird without being off-putting with the best of them.
You could do a whole lot worse than spending a night watching this one, but between laughs you might just find yourself thinking of ways to get out of the theater.
★★ ½ of ★★★★★