A Million Ways to Die in the West

Cast:
Seth MacFarlane as Albert Stark
Charlize Theron as Anna
Amanda Seyfried as Louise
Liam Neeson as Clinch
Giovanni Ribisi as Edward
Neil Patrick Harris as Foy
Sarah Silverman as Ruth
Christopher Hagen as George Stark
Wes Studi as Cochise
Matt Clark as Old Prospector
Evan Jones as Lewis
Aaron McPherson as Ben
Rex Linn as Sheriff / Narrator
Brett Rickaby as Charlie Blanche
Alex Borstein as Millie
Ralph Garman as Dan
John Aylward as Pastor Wilson
Jay Patterson as Doctor Harper
Amick Byram as Marcus Thornton

Directed by Seth MacFarlane

Story:
Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) is a sheepherder living in the Old West who is getting sick of how dangerous the place is and he seriously considers moving somewhere safer after his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) breaks up with him. When a pretty newcomer named Anna (Charlize Theron) enters town, Albert immediately hits it off with her as she agrees to train him how to use a gun. Little does he know that Anna’s husband is the notorious outlaw Clinch (Liam Neeson), who is about to arrive in town and kill the man who has been canoodling with his wife.

Analysis:
When you’re a director who writes your own material, it takes a lot of balls to feature yourself front and center as the film’s star. Sure, there have been plenty who have excelled at that sort of thing–Woody Allen, for instance–and lots of great examples this year alone of actors who’ve pulled double duty both in front and behind the camera. However big a fan you may be of Seth MacFarlane, he is no Woody Allen, nor is he a Mel Brooks, not that you can tell from the way he tries to do his own take on “Blazing Saddles.”

Rather than trying to fit into the period with any sort of authenticity, MacFarlane begins the movie with a laundry list of disconnected gags, which essentially one ongoing joke that the West is a dangerous place and MacFarlane’s Albert Sharp hates being there. It takes the introduction of other characters before the movie even gets remotely interesting, but you’ll have to wait a good half hour or more before there’s an actual story. That comes in the form of Charlize Theron, one of the film’s few saving graces as she does a lot in terms of making MacFarlane more tolerable.

As you might imagine, it’s rarely a good thing when the best parts of a Seth MacFarlane movie are the parts where he’s not in it and that’s certainly the case here, because he has very little personality or charm when not just providing a voice. The best parts of the movie are the ones involving Giovanni Ribisi as a church-going virgin and Sarah Silverman as his girlfriend, who just happens to be a very busy local hooker who refuses to sleep with him until they’re married. They have some very funny moments together, but unfortunately their storyline is shunted off to the sidelines fairly quickly and only revisited a few times. Likewise, Liam Neeson is also very good in a role that doesn’t seem particularly challenging, but his time on-screen is way less than you might expect.

As much as there are aspects of “Million Ways to Die in the West” that work and MacFarlane proves himself a capable director at least in terms of making a Western, just overall it feels like a slog to anyone who isn’t necessarily a fan of MacFarlane’s as it just seems like the same old schtick MacFarlane always does and there are more jokes that aren’t funny than those that are.

At least “Ted” had a solid and original story whereas “Million Ways to Die” might as well just be an extended episode of “Family Guy” set in the West. There’s nothing particularly inspired or clever about that dull and often moronic concept and MacFarlane generally squanders his best assets to basically shine the spotlight on himself.

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