A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

Plot-less, pointless and painfully unfunny, Seth Macfarlane’s hugely indulgent sophomore effort, A Million Ways to Die in the West, is an overlong compilation of every disgusting frat boy joke that was ever cut from a series of Family Guy episodes that thankfully, have never seen the light of day.

Macfarlane’s attempt to demystify Hollywood’s love of the Wild West is mildly appealing at first, but the writer/director’s reliance on stifling his lazy, underdeveloped narrative with random, disgusting, bachelor humour makes the whole experience nauseating and tedious to endure.

Much about this ‘comedy’ is off-timed, offensive or just downright disgusting, but the greatest sin is the aimlessness of the script and how boring and repetitive all the proceedings become in what now seems like an expensive vanity project. For a man who’s made a career (one I had enjoyed until this point) spoofing genres and pop culture mythos, the collection of overlong and humourless skits was unexpected and near unbearable to witness.

Set in an unforgiving Arizona in 1882, Macfarlane plays Albert Stark, a cowardly sheep farmer who resents absolutely everything about life in the Old West and goes on a series of repetitive tirades throughout the film reminding us all of the joke that we couldn’t possibly miss. When Starks’ not ranting, he’s shamed publicly for being a wuss and loses his large-eyed girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfried), in the process. It’s only when the confident and mysterious Anna (Charlize Theron) suddenly saddles into town, that life begins to pick up for our ‘protagonist’. Sadly the same cannot be said for the audience.

Adding to the film’s list of glaring problems, is the casting of himself as the lead character. As Stark (how dare he use that name in vain), Macfarlane proves unable to carry a live action feature on his own. While he’s an immensely talented voice actor who has enjoyed a hugely successful television career using his pipes, he simply doesn’t possess the necessary screen presence, gravitas or the likability of a leading man.

Macfarlane assembles what some may call an all-star cast that includes Seyfried, Theron, Liam Neeson, Neil Patrick Harris, Giovanni Ribsi, and Sarah Silverman but no one is given any material or direction to elevate these characters from being the lazily drawn stereotypes that they are.

2012’s Ted proved that Macfarlane’s snarky and random Family Guy humour could be translated on the big screen. His follow up proves that was, for now, clearly an aberration.

Sorry folks, but A Million Ways to Die in the West is dead on arrival.

 

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