Seth MacFarlane took over the Fox Sunday animated block with three animated series and had a massive hit in 2012 with his first movie, Ted. Now, in addition to writing and directing, MacFarlane steps in front of the camera to star in his ode to the Wild West and how hideously dangerous it was to live there.
MacFarlane stars as Albert Stark, a cowardly sheep farmer who loses his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) after chickening out of a gunfight. A mysterious new woman in town, Anna (Charlize Theron), takes a shine to him and trains him to duel his ex’s new beau, Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). What Albert doesn’t realize is that Anna is the wife of ruthless gunslinger Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson) who is arriving in town shortly. Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman co-star as Albert incredibly upbeat friends. If MacFarlane was doing Peter Griffin in Ted, he’s definitely channeling more Brian this movie, as Albert is smarter than everyone and seems to be the only to realize how dire their time period is. Charlize Theron matches MacFarlane’s snark and anachronistic personality and the two have a great back and forth that eventually turns into a kind of cliche romance. Neil Patrick Harris is in full on Barney Stinson mode as Foy, who operates the town’s “Mustachiary” and, yes, there’ a musical number about mustaches. The sideplot with Ribisi and Silverman is pretty funny as well, as Silverman is the world’s most upbeat and sweet hooker and Ribisi is her just as sweet and upbeat boyfriend, who is completely OK with her doing the most depraved sex acts as her day job. Liam Neeson is a little wasted as the main antagonist, especially after his role as Good Cop/Bad Cop in The Lego Movie earlier this year. He’s kind of a generic villain and the plan of his gang and pursuit of Albert and Anna later on kind of drags the movie down, as it gets away from jokes in favor of plot.
Humor is always a personal preference but there was nothing that was really laugh out loud funny to me in A Million Ways to Die in the West, especially compared to Ted or even other comedies I’ve seen this year like Lego and The Muppets. There are plenty of bits that get chuckles, like a disastrous county fair, Albert’s opening rant about how dangerous the west is and people constantly getting killed in random ways. There’s also a bunch of random but funny cameos as well. There are some clunker sequences as well, like a peyote trip that seems to exist solely because there was a surplus of budget that was spent on random CG. The movie feels a bit long and probably could have benefitted from a good 30 minutes or so getting cut off. At 2 hours, it starts to wear down and, like I mentioned before, there’s a good chunk without jokes that is just about moving the plot along to the final showdown between Albert and Clinch.
A Million Ways to Die isn’t a bad comedy by any means but compared to Ted and more recent comedies, it’s more chuckle inducing than anything else. If you’re a fan of Seth MacFarlane, you’ll definitely enjoy it but for everyone else, it might be more of a rent or a watch it on Comedy Central in a few years.