Seth MacFarlane wants to be a movie star in the worst way.
“A Million Ways to Die in the West” is result of this longing, a
long/longer/longest comedy with long waits between jokes and longer waits
between those that work.
Thus, does his leading man career begin and end with a “worst way” Western
that’s basically an excuse for a guy with zero screen presence to lock lips with
Oscar winner Charlize Theron.
The voice and creative mind behind the animated “Family Guy” and the
half-animated “Ted” makes what is essentially a dirty-mouthed Don Knotts comedy,
a farce so lame it’s as if “Blazing Saddles” never happened or MacFarlane never
He plays Albert, a timid sheep rancher in 1882 Old Stump Township, located in
the scenic Monument Valley of Arizona. His clumsiness with his sheep and his
cowardice with the locals costs him his best girl (Amanda Seyfried). His pals
Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) and Edward’s hooker-girlfriend Ruth (Sarah Silverman,
of course) worry he’ll never get over that.
And then Anna (Theron), the moll of a desperado (Liam Neeson) ducks into
town, laying low. She takes pity on the only guy in the Old West without a tan
The running gag here is Albert’s profane irritation at all the ways you can
get killed in the wild, careless, pre-antibiotic, pre OSHA, lawless, trigger
happy environment they all live in. That’s another reason Louise (Seyfried)
“People are living to be 35 these days!” No need to rush into marriage. Not
with the local moustache Lothario (Neil Patrick Harris) waiting in the
Albert must find his mettle, learn to use a gun and take a spirit journey
with some hallucinogen-equipped Indians (Wes “Geronimo” Studi is their leader)
before he can get the girl.
There’s an ambitious barn dance scene set to an uncredited Stephen Foster’s “If You’ve Only
Got a Moustache” that works. And the Indians initiating the palest pale face bit
provokes a grin.
“Why are the Indians so mad?” Anna wants to know. “I mean, we’re basically
splitting this country with them, 50/50.”
But MacFarlane and his cast — including cameos by everyone from Ryan
Reynolds to Christopher Lloyd (“Back to the Future”, anyone?) and Ewan McGregor
— seem to think that merely saying a dirty word, showing a bodily fluid or
demonstrating a bodily function is all it takes to earn a laugh.
And in the center of it all is the bland MacFarlane, co-writer, producer,
director and star, and in none of those guises does he find enough jokes to fill
a two hour “comedy.” Characters stiffly stand in the foreground exchanging
unfunny lines that don’t advance the plot while extras stand around behind them
doing nothing funny either. A long, bloody barroom fight — more ways to die —
has one decent gag in it.
In traditional Westerns, there was humor in the guy who hasn’t mastered the
basics of Western life — riding, roping, shooting and drinking. Albert is
plainly that guy, and isn’t the least bit amusing in his ineptitude.
Leaving the actor who plays him wandering back behind the camera with his
tail between his legs facing just one question from moviedom.
When are you delivering “Ted #2”? Because “Million Ways” is strictly
MPAA Rating: R for strong crude and sexual content, language throughout, some
violence and drug material
Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Sarah
Silverman, Giovanni Ribisi, Neil Patrick Harris
Credits: Directed by Seth MacFarlane, written by Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin
and Wellesley Wild. A Universal release.
Running time: 1:56