With the massive success of Family Guy, as well as his 2012 film Ted which broke comedy records grossing over $549 million worldwide at the box office, the bar for Seth MacFarlane has been set high. But his latest film, the western comedy, A Million Ways to Die in the West fails to meet those expectations.
MacFarlane takes on the roles of writer, director and lead as the main character Albert, a sheep farmer living in Old Stump, Arizona in the 1880’s. Albert’s cowardice causes him to lose the woman he “thinks” he’s in love with played by Amanda Seyfried. What follows are 116 minutes of Albert trying to run from, or in many cases, talking his way out of confrontations that avoid the “millions of ways to die in the west.” Sprinkled throughout are superstar cameos like Charlize Theron, and Liam Neeson.
If there were saving graces to this film, it would have to be in part to the performance of Charlize Theron as Anna, the “secret” wife of the film’s villain Clinch Leatherwood (Nesson). Theron should have had more screen time and character development as Anna ultimately becomes Albert’s love interest and motivation. Sarah Silverman plays a hooker named Ruth. But she comes off as never being in character and more like a stand-up act in costume. While Neil Patrick Harris is the conceited villain and “woman stealer,” Foy. Harris is really the only role with a somewhat convincing 19th century persona. Unfortunately, by film’s end, the subplot between Harris and MacFarlane’s characters is forgotten.
We’ve seen Seth take on voice acting in his role as Ted, the titular trash talking teddy bear. But in A Million Ways… this is the first we see him in a human role. Getting kudos for taking the risk of going in front of the camera, Macfarlane comes across uncomfortable. His novice acting ability shows especially in a majority of dialogue and jokes delivered that are flat and redundant.
What Seth lacks in acting, he attempts to make up for in terms of writing. For the most part, he resorts to cartoonish, over the top, toilet humor, and gross gags. Adding to this, every dangerous desert creature imaginable is thrown in to give a live action cartoon feel. But gags like the use of a character experiencing excessive diarrhea, become exaggerated to the point of not being funny and outright gross. Spending most of the dialogue trying to rely too much on frank and explicit delivery of modern sexual jokes in the Old West setting, leaves the audience saying, ‘Huh?’ And the worst, most uncalled for jokes were racial. Especially one featuring a game of shooting at images of runaway slaves.
A Million Ways to Die in the West may work for some fans who are loyal to MacFarlane’s writing in regards to Family Guy and Ted. But this new film leaves much to be desired for the rest of his fanbase.