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Stars: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Christopher Hagen and Wes Studi.
Writers: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild.
Director: Seth MacFarlane.

Rating: 1/5

If there is a contender to wrestle the 2014 Worst Picture Razzie from Adam Sandler and his much maligned non-com Blended, it may well be Seth MacFarlane for his starring debut, A Million Ways to Die in the West. One of the most misguided and flagrantly self-indulgent vanity projects in recent memory, ‘The Man Who Killed The Oscars’ puts his talent front and centre with this crude, witless western spoof that reaches its comedic peak when Doogie Howser kicks over a hat full of diarrhoea. Hooray for Hollywood.

MacFarlane refuses to take a backward step from critics who label his brand of shock-schtick frat-boy level puerile; the very first joke is a misogynistic slur, followed by a steady stream of body fluid gags, some homophobic stereotyping and lots of very modern cussing. His on-camera appearance is itself a non-concession to the conventions of the dustbowl melodrama, with his pearly white teeth, gelled hair and man-scaped features entirely at odds with…well, everything. Which, as was evident from his hosting of the Academy Awards, is the essence of his comic persona; MacFarlane looks the dapper traditionalist, but only to the extent that it allows him to infiltrate the establishment  and amuse himself by setting light to a bag of poo on their doorstep. A Million Ways to Die in the West represents his latest bag of poo.  

The widescreen lensing of DOP Michael Barrett captures the landscape imagery associated the genre, yet MacFarlane does very little to engage on a comedic level with the setting. In one seemingly endless rant that feels pilfered from an outdated stand-up routine, the shrieking actor rattles off all the negatives of the frontier life in 1880’s Arizona; surely some of these could have been explored in greater depth had the script been less reliant upon the auteur’s bottomless well of faecal references.

MacFarlane plays sheep grazier Albert, a whining nobody who loses his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) when she tires of his general unmanliness. Albert finds a (very) patient ear in his virginal best friend Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) and his lovable Christian-whore Ruth (Sarah Silverman), but Albert is near the end of his tether. Things begin to brighten up when Albert saves the beautiful Anna (Charlize Theron)during a bar brawl and an entirely unfathomable romance blossoms, until it is revealed she is scouting the town for her gunslinging bad-guy hubby, Clinch (Liam Neeson, looking nonplussed). On the periphery is moustachioed creep, Foy (the film’s biggest asset, Neil Patrick Harris), who is wooing Louise and remains at odds with our anti-hero.

The solid cast is shunted aside for long passages, allowing MacFarlane underserved centre stage for most of the film’s inexcusable 116 minute running time. Deft comedians like Ribisi and Silverman are left floundering with weak, obvious gags before disappearing entirely; Seyfried’s career takes a backward step in a role that feels brutally truncated, as if the majority of it will bulk up the DVD extras package. The most awkward player is clearly Oscar-winner Theron, who good-sports herself for the benefit of her co-star’s project but is clearly uncomfortable. Broad comedy is not prevalent on the actress’ resume and her casting seems less to do with her comedic skill (despite her natural likability onscreen) and more to do with MacFarlane’s over-seer role; if given the power of veto as writer/director/producer on your first studio pic starring role, why not cast the world’s most beautiful actress, regardless of her suitability, as your love interest?

MacFarlane falls back on his well-worn trick of abstract pop-culture references, the likes of which sometimes worked in his overvalued TV series, Family Guy; the IMDb credit list spoils the surprise factor for fans of Christopher Lloyd, Gilbert Gottfried and Ewan McGregor, but there are some other A-list cameos, all affording the overall production no particularly advantage. Some druggy humour and shock-effect gore is employed, the likes of which may raise a goofy smirk amongst stoners, but the scenes are so devoid of inventiveness or context as to have no impact.

The failure of A Million Ways to Die in the West falls entirely at the feet of Seth MacFarlane and one hopes he wears the blame with the same enthusiasm with which he accepted the accolades for his surprise 2012 hit, Ted. In hindsight, the strength of that film was not the foul-mouthed CGI bear but the warm point-of-entry that its star Mark Wahlberg provided. MacFarlane’s follow-up lacks any connective tissue to human realness, preferring cartoonish coarseness and random excess; it is as if that twisted, needy sociopathic soft-toy was given a one-picture deal as reward for his success, and this is the end result.

Reader Comments (18)

Not exactly an objective review. Dislikes MacFarland, hated his Oscar hosting, dislikes Family Guy, and now he reviews his movie. He didn't have to see the movie to pan it. Why bother? The review was written in his mind before the script was written.

May 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHpustonBeerMan

Totally agree with the commenter. This is hardly an objective review. Also, not surprisingly, it's one of two reviews available pre-RT consensus -- like the author couldn't wait to put it out there and set us all straight.

May 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDstoo

Bravo, you guys - I'm sure it's a *hilarious* film, but Mr. Reviewer just hates that MacFarlane SO MUCH that he can't admit what a cleverly delightful romp we have here ;)

May 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterClarence

haven't seen this but thanks for the warning, TED was enough for me. pathetic, witless shite for immature males who've grown up on internet porn and think of women as nothing but sperm buckets.

May 27, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterearswired

An objective review would be a synopsis. By definition a critical review cannot be objective.

May 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKirk

You know it's a fun time when critics hate it this much. This guy can't contain his anger.

May 27, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterfun

you were bitten by seth macfarlane as a child, weren't you?

May 27, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermontman

So many fanboys.

May 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJimmy

This film is so funny ! We laughed the whole way through. Saw it with 900 other very enthusiastic viewers who clapped and clapped at the end. The humor is quick and clever and smart but easy to miss because it comes so fast. For those of us who grew up watching westerns, this is entertainment not to be missed

May 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVermont

I haven't seen the film, but the previews look horrid. Based on the comments here, I can only assume the same crowd that turns out in droves for trash like "Vampires Suck" and "<Insert Adjective> Movie" will be supporting this movie. I weep for the future.

May 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLe Sigh

Brilliant review, and utterly agree with earswired' comments. Silly me, because I don't mind family guy, and I saw the big names who generally don't touch crappy movies, I went along to the industry preview here in Australia. Wow. I despair for a society where the brainless, cheap, misogynistic, and even nausea inducing attempts at humour throughout this film could be considered mainstream pop culture. If you have even a little bit of innocence, avoid this film like the clap. I only hope it gets an R18 rating here, as the thought of teens popping along to catch this awful misadventure with parental blessing like this is just a slightly rude version of city slickers or blazing saddles, fills me with a rare sense of protective dread.

May 28, 2014 | Unregistered Commentertom

As the creators of south park said McFarlane had potential but him and his other writers are totally lazy to develop any characters in family guy with endless cuttaway after endless cutaway cos developing characters like cartman for example is much harder. I expect nothing else from this movie which looks utterly hopeless

May 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGary Timothy

The previews look horrible. This film seems like a good cure for constipation.

May 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEmerald

I Okay, I can't take this review seriously cause he hates MacFarlane. I love Family Guy and Ted, and I think this will be a hilariously awesome movie.

May 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Coats

Really? You are a sad little man. Like this "review" even matters, psht... Seth is a millionaire and you are what? Oh, that's right, a blogger with a grudge. Jealousy will get you nowhere, especially in Hollywood. This "failure" will rake in the dough. You watch and see, and not only that, but dvd/blu ray sales will be surprising to you as well. Hopefully you will rethink your sense of humor. Perhaps you will find that unlike you, there are people in the world who like actually like to laugh. But then again, perhaps I'm wrong and you will just remain this cynical narcissistic thesaurus who will live out the end of your days begrudging everyone who becomes a success making a joke in Hollywood. How sad it would be. Really.

May 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLususNaturae

I should have left after the first 10 minutes. I don't want my 16 year old to see it and A. waste his money B. lower himself to diarrhea-in-a-hat, lets-leave-nothing-to-the-imagination type humor. For anyone hoping for the Bridesmaids of westerns, you'll be very disappointed.

May 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterYes, really

In "Family Guy," McFarlane spoke through a dog.

In "Ted," McFarlane spoke through a bear.

In "West," McFarlane speaks through himself.

That's why "West" will fail, and fail huge.

May 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSpySmasher

Wow. I almost passed out some of you people are such tightwads. Were you expecting Woody Allen when you walked in the theater? Do the previews say "Directed by and starring Jerry Lewis!" What did you think you were in for? It's like some of you saw "Ted" and went in to this expecting "Little House on the Prairie". It makes no sense what so ever. I expect Seth to raise (or lower, depending on your point of view) the bar and I expect to be taught things I could otherwise only have learned in prison. I expect I will.

May 28, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermontman_23

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