REVIEW: A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: SETH MACFARLANE / SCREENPLAY: SETH MACFARLANE, ALEC SULKIN, WELLESLEY WILD / STARRING: SETH MACFARLANE, CHARLIZE THERON, AMANDA SEYFRIED, NEIL PATRICK HARRIS, GIOVANNI RIBISI, SARAH SILVERMAN, LIAM NEESON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
In all honesty, when Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane’s successful directorial film Ted was heavily used in the promotion of this one, the alarm bells started ringing. If you are expecting a film as funny as that, please expel such a thought from your head, unless you enjoy crushing disappointment. A Million Ways to Die in the West is MacFarlane’s The Hangover Part II, in that it's a film that follows up a hit with a low-on-laughs misfire. The plot sees sheep farmer Albert (MacFarlane) struggling to cope with life in the dangerous Wild West. When his girlfriend Louise (Seyfried) dumps him, that's the last straw – until he meets a rootin’-tootin’ soulmate in Anna (Theron). But it just so happens that she is the wife of one of the west’s most dangerous gunslingers, Clinch Leatherwood (Neeson).
There's a distinct whiff of Blazing Saddles here (Joel McNeely’s opening credits in particular sing from the same hymn sheet), but sadly it feels as if the writers watched Mel Brooks' movie in fast-forward. The look of the film (sets, costumes, props) is spot on and there are smatterings of potential throughout, but the lazy scripting drags the whole thing down. The wit, panache and fizz of the best genre comedy is absent and despite some promising moments of self-referentiality (in too short supply), the film (much like David Gordon Green’s fantasy comedy Your Highness) mistakes sex, profanity and filth for flawless writing. There is nothing wrong with crude comedy but this offers little but titters at best.
However, the biggest crime is not even the film’s flat laugh rate. The cast is strewn with stars but A Million Ways to Die in the West finds a million ways to misuse them. MacFarlane is a fantastic voice actor but his onscreen persona needs serious work and thus casting him as the lead was a bad move. Albert is hapless and pathetic but never especially likeable as a central character. Amanda Seyfried is here merely for a joke to be made about the size of her eyes, Liam Neeson fits the genre as well as you’d expect but he is underused as the main antagonist and Neil Patrick Harris as Foy (Louise’s new moustachioed boyfriend) only really shits in a hat. It’s lucky then that we have Theron to liven up proceedings. In one of her first comedy roles, she is excellent and in truth a bit too good for this film. In many ways the dedication of this cast rescue this film from being a total embarrassment, as do an impressive list of cameos – admittedly most are pointless but one appearance from a time-jumping franchise regular is undoubtedly excellent and perhaps the movie's best moment!
A Million Ways to Die in the West isn't the worst film of the year, but it's a ham-fisted, lazy and unfunny effort. Even for fans of MacFarlane, this is a feeble and rather lazy effort that feels like a stage show that Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom from The Producers would have made – in fact, one drug hallucination sequence in the film may as well be known as ‘spring time for Albert’. Wait for Ted 2 or the next series of Family Guy instead, because this is obviously just a time waster until then. Call it an opportunity waste-Ted.
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10