A Million Ways to Die in the West

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Released: Friday, May 30, 2014

[Theater]

Oh, Seth. Seth, Seth, Seth, Seth, Seth. . . . .

Seth MacFarlane. It’s a name a great many are likely tiring of by now, maybe for good reason, maybe for ones less so. Judge as you will, but I’ve tried to make a case for the guy for awhile. I’m on my last legs.

For me it’s never been an issue how stupid the comedy has been. . .and we have gone to some fairly asinine places. One need look no further than Family Guy‘s running joke about Peter and how whenever he trips and scuffs his knee he whines like a baby for about two solid minutes of their precious air time. Or beyond the show’s myriad other deliciously tasteless jokes that have offended every culture from here to Hanoi.

The guy loves what he does and the passion effloresces in virtually everything his pervy hands have touched. That it takes a brain running on nothing but gasoline and guano to understand most of the humor MacFarlane now barricades behind him, arms folded with just the yuppiest of grins plastered on his face, well that’s just no surprise. Family Guy et al aren’t particularly high-brow concepts, and that’s quite alright with me. I have laughed, and I have laughed hard.

I have little patience for lazy filmmaking, though. It’s also a phenomenon that makes even less sense. Of all qualities a director, producer, writer and star (and in this case, MacFarlane is all of these things) can possess when shouldered with the responsibility of producing content for an audience that he’s been comfortable with for years producing content for, the last thing one thinks of is apathy. A Million Ways to Die in the West is a sham of an effort from an entertainer who really ought to know better. Consequently, I can only shake my head and crap myself awkwardly. (Actually, I don’t know why I did the second thing, or why I owned up to it. Whatever. It’s too late now.)

Seth, where’s the motivation, man?

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“Nah, it’s alright. We’ll get the title right next time this movie comes through.”

Recycled gags and scatological humor run amok out here in the wild west, a theme that has stuck with the creator of Ted like a wet turd on velcro. This is the story of a lowly sheepherder, Albert Stark (MacFarlane), who eventually comes into his own as a proud, confident and respected member of the small dustbowl community of Old Stump.

Well, he doesn’t exactly come into his own by accident. No. That’s actually thanks to the sudden appearance of a mysterious woman named Anna (Charlize Theron) who rides into town one day with a band of baddies who are seeking gold deposits in the area and are led by one bad cowpoke by the name of Clinch (Liam Neeson).

As is the case in many a MacFarlane production, plot elements and developments are highly contrived and conveniently staged. His Albert sure didn’t have to do a whole lot of. . . .shepherding. . . to impress the new lady in town. It all comes together somewhat (in)organically, thanks to a script that might as well have been penned by a retarded sheep. The entire premise is one drawn-out and predictable affair, as Albert faces a series of gun fights in the center of town against multiple villains, none of which he’s had much preparation for. Not to mention, the story shockingly lacks the energy and enthusiasm typical of the man’s controversial work. Instead of being plump with brand-new side-slapping jokes, we get a different variation of the crass monuments the man has spent a lifetime erecting behind a microphone and hilarious animation.

Maybe the punishment fits the crime? My naïveté for hoping for something more original has landed me in a world of disappointment.

If he’s not careful, A Million Ways to Die in the West might well be the final frontier of MacFarlane’s live-action film-making career. It is not a good movie, and while disappointment might seem like an all but predictable conclusion to arrive at it is certainly the case here. A Million Ways to Die in the West. . .more like a million ways to yawn in your seat.

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2-0Recommendation: This isn’t a good film, even by Seth MacFarlane standards. The guy may have only made two live-action films, but his first stab at it still claims the higher ground. A Million Ways to Die in the West suffers from an uninspired premise and incredibly flat performances that are of no one’s fault but the script’s. Liam Neeson comes to work each day, this we can tell — and ditto that to Charlize Theron and Neil Patrick Harris. But the rest telegraph it in, including MacFarlane as a director and co-writer. Personally, I hope he sticks to animated TV shows more in the future.

Rated: R

Running Time: 116 mins.

Quoted: “Please don’t shoot us on sex night!”

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com