Remember how satirically funny “Blazing Saddles” (1974) was? This isn’t. Remember what a disaster “The Lone Ranger” (2013) was? Seth MacFarlane’s feebly indulgent attempt at Western parody is comparable. Read on…
Set in 1882, Albert Stark (MacFarlane) is an Arizona sheep herder who is sick of coping with danger in the Old West, particularly after his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) dumps him and he’s supposed to have a gunfight with her new beau, dandified Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), who owns a moustache shop. That’s when he’s befriended by Anna (Charlize Theron), a mysterious sharpshooter who arrives in Old Stump (that’s the name of the town). What Albert doesn’t realize is that she’s actually the wife of Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), the territory’s most notorious outlaw.
What goes wrong? Everything. While Seth MacFarlane’s shtick is hilarious in “Ted” (2012) and on TV’s “The Family Guy,” he’s simply not ready to assume full command as writer, director, producer and star. Illustrative of his ineptitude, instead of a coherent script, he – along with Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild – string together verbal and visual gags with a loathing for the Old West as the connective tissue. There are formulaic fart and grossed-out excrement jokes, along with racism, sexism and the repetitive complaint, “People die at the fair.” Hogging the screen in this vanity project, sheepish MacFarlane’s not even generous with his frontier co-stars.
Giovanni Ribisi is mildly amusing as the naïve virgin who’s in love with the saloon’s most popular prostitute (Sarah Silverman) who refuses to have sex with him until they’re married. Charlize Theron and Liam Neeson gamely do their best with bland, superficial caricatures. Of the un-billed celebrity cameos, “Back to the Future” is the best, while Jamie Foxx’s Django has two lines after the credits. Production-wise, Michael Barrett’s cinematography captures Monument Valley’s grandeur and Joel McNeely’s orchestral score is evocative.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “A Million Ways to Die in the West” is a moronic 2. Vulgar – yes, but just not funny.