Director: Seth MacFarlane
Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Sarah Silverman, Giovanni Ribisi and Liam Neeson
Running Time:115 minutes
Release date: May 30th
The Wild West, the 1880s, Albert (Seth MacFarlane) our hero, is a cowardly sheep-farmer. (Between this and Edge of Tomorrow, it’s a big week for cowards in the cinema.) Albert has just been dumped by his pretty girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) for a rich moustache oil salesman (Neil Patrick Harris). Shortly afterwards, Albert meets and falls in love with a new girl in town, Anna (Charlize Theron). Unbeknownst to Albert, Anna is married to feared outlaw Clinch (Liam Neeson).
Considering the wealth of resources and talent thrown at this project, A Million Ways to Die in the West is a major disappointment. The general gist is that it’s a normal guy with 21st century sensibilities who lives in the violent frontier of the old west and is dragged into a typical western story.
While not the pile of warm garbage that some say it is, A Million Ways… is still not very good. It’s far too long for a comedy, many jokes fall flat, McFarlane is a weak leading man (what a great role it would’ve been for someone like Paul Rudd or Martin Freeman) and it’s very repetitive. Two running jokes (the west is dangerous; Sarah Silverman’s a chirpy prostitute) are ran into the ground repeatedly, and then hammered down a little more.
To be fair, Theron has a surprising knack for comedy and looks phenomenal as always, and Neeson is a menacing villain (using his own accent, which is fun) though he’s hardly in it at all. There are two genuinely fun scenes – the grimy county fair and a lively dance-off/musical number. The film has a decent premise, and it looks nice.
However, a joke lands solidly only once about every half hour, which is a shameful ratio and the pace is leaden, with long, long gaps between jokes, many of which miss the mark when they eventually arrive.
This, I think, is what happens when someone has had too much control on a project so early in his film career. MacFarlane’s name appears five times in the opening credits; as director (twice), producer, star and co-writer. If this had been his first film, the studio might have made him recast the lead, hand the script over to another writer for a much needed spit-and-polish and cut the film by at least half an hour. But because of the success of Ted, it looks like he was given a blank cheque and enough rope to hang himself.
MacFarlane – creator of Family Guy, prolific voiceover artist, TV producer, singer, awards show host and one-man entertainment industry – is a very talented guy, with seemingly endless ambition and energy. But even talented people have an off day.