A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST // Seth MacFarlane set the bar high with his successful comedy “Ted”, reminding why “Family Guy” has been pushing the envelope for as long as it has. However, given the reins to produce his passion project, “A Million Ways To Die In The West”, a comedic period Western, MacFarlane falters, proving the same fifty-fifty hit-or-miss percentage that the jokes of his popular Fox series produces. The first mistake MacFarlane makes is starring lead in his own film. Do not get me wrong, it is nice to finally see the man behind the voice, but as sheep farmer Albert Stark, he sticks out like a sore thumb. Not only that, but the character is written as though he is from the future, with a self-aware point-of-view that does not fit the time period MacFarlane is trying to instill. Jokes like doctors killing more patients than they save and fashionable dresses of the time simulating a fat ass and how that is the meanest joke you could play on a black person feel more like modern day commentary than something someone from the period would even be able to notice. For every joke that does land, like the excitement over seeing a dollar or the fact that no one ever smiles in picture, there are a dozen that fall completely flat, which exist for cheap laughs or gross out humor.
What ends up feeling like a live action “Family Guy” episode, not even the big name cast can help save the film. Liam Neeson plays the baddie, Clinch Leatherwood, that has come to town for no apparent reason, often presented with too serious of a tone to match the rest of the film. Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman play couple Edward and Ruth, Albert’s best friends, who despite Ruth’s occupation as a whore are saving themselves for marriage. Amanda Seyfried plays Albert’s ex-girlfriend, who leaves him for mustache aficionado Foy (Neil Patrick Harris) who comes complete with a theme song. And Charlize Theron plays Anna, a newcomer to the town and a new love interest for Albert, who helps him on his path to finding his confidence. Despite often falling flat, “A Million Ways To Die In The West” is a solidly produced comedy, with epic Western shots and the aforementioned stellar cast. But without the strong lead to hold the film together and plenty of jokes that should simply have been left on the cutting room floor (which would have also helped with the overly long run-time of the film), MacFarlane proves that he should stay behind the camera and should probably stick to his talking raunchy teddy bear comedies.
[Directed by Seth MacFarlane] [R] [116 min] [30 May 2014]