'Million Ways to Die':Not Killer Stuff

Seth MacFarlane's aim is not true and he misfires badly in his genre-spoofing Western epic.
Seth MacFarlane's aim is not true and he misfires badly in his genre-spoofing Western epic.
Posted: May 30, 2014

LIFE is cheap and the laughs are even cheaper in Seth MacFarlane's "A Million Ways to Die in the West," which actually undercounts the hazards of frontier life.

There are in fact a million and one ways to perish - you can also die on screen, having made a two-hour comedy with only two good jokes in it.

I know, you don't believe it, because you're a big "Family Guy" fan and because MacFarlane's "Ted" was so funny.

But this movie is a misfire. It fails as a "Blazing Saddles"-style genre spoof, or even the gross-out comedy it too often becomes (a sheep pees in MacFarlane's face, Neil Patrick Harris has an extended bout of explosive diarrhea, a man dies from his own toxic fart).

And it leans a little too heavily on the presumed charisma of MacFarlane himself. He stars in the movie as Albert, a contemporary cosmopolitan atheist displaced to an Old West town plagued by a preposterously violent death, where even the hookers (Sarah Silverman) purport to be devout Christians.

As Albert, MacFarlane makes many denunciations of frontier life and the town's simple-minded residents. But the observations are more snide and misanthropic than funny, and you start to believe that the people (Liam Neeson) itching to shoot Albert have the right idea.

MacFarlane, though, thinks that all his riffs come off as irresistible charm. And so he is pursued, mysteriously, by Charlize Theron, whose job in the movie is to give a series of testimonials to his attractiveness.

Since the character is transparently MacFarlane himself, and MacFarlane wrote the character, the constant wonder-of-Seth boosterism is a little creepy.

The movie also reminds you of MacFarlane's Academy Award hosting gig, noted for its complete lack of chivalry. "West" has Theron announcing that she has nice breasts and ends up making fun of Amanda Seyfried's looks.

If the women were allowed to contribute lines, I wonder if they might make a few "friendly" jokes about MacFarlane's Day-Glo West Coast teeth, his Ed Grimley hair-do or his cryogenic Wayne Newton visage.

Probably not.

Because it would be rude.

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