Family Guy supremo Seth MacFarlane makes his leading man debut as the timid sheep farmer, Albert, in his latest film A Million Ways to Die in the West. The satirical western comedy, that also stars Oscar winner Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson and Amanda Seyfried, looks to poke fun at the dangerous nature of the Old West in typical MacFarlane fashion with his brand of imaginatively crude humour.
Albert is a nice but unspectacular sort of guy who is frustrated with life in the Old West. Having had his heart broken by ex-girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried), he strikes up a friendship with the new girl in town, Anna (Charlize Theron). As the pair get closer, Anna’s outlaw husband, Clinch (Liam Neeson), rides into town and Albert must defend himself and the woman he has fallen for from the dastardly gunslinger.
MacFarlane’s attempt at satire is admirable, but lacks in both consistency and conviction. The film begins strongly, poking fun in an outrageously over-the-top fashion at the dangerous nature of life so often portrayed in classic western films, including rampaging bulls, killer ice and epic bar fights. The consistency of the humour, however, ranges widely from Family Guy goodness to down right Adam Sandler inspired vulgar awfulness, but too often hitting a middle ground of tedious mediocrity. An entertaining musical number about moustaches, along with on-running jokes about people not smiling in black and white photographs and the kind-hearted Christian prostitute (Sarah Silverman) who wont have sex with her fiancé (Giovanni Ribisi) until they married, are the highlights of a real mixed bag of gags.
MacFarlane himself, who also co-wrote and directed the movie, makes for a surprisingly impressive screen presence. We have heard his voice so many times, but putting a face to the sound was strange but enjoyable. If only his own script had served him better… It was Neeson however who stole the show; he effortlessly added a real sinister edge to otherwise comical proceedings as the wickedly fierce villain of the piece.
Not a patch on the Family Guy creators previous big screen venture, Ted, in terms of both charm and humour, A Million Ways to Die in the West at times feels more like a collection of comedy sketches than a feature-length film. It certainly has its moments, and to MacFarlane’s credit he at least tries to be different to most other mainstream 21st century comedies, but the inconsistency of its humour, a long with a patchy, long-winded storyline, turns the movie into a sheepishly average, and at times rather tedious, affair.