Leaving the theater this morning, I heard someone say, “For $6.50, it wasn’t bad.” This lukewarm response is most likely what many others have felt after viewing Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West.
On top of writing, directing, and producing the movie, MacFarlane steps into the limelight as protagonist Albert Stark, a nerdy sheep farmer living in Arizona, 1882. Stark is labeled a coward after he walks away from a gunfight, prompting his girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfreid), to leave him.
Stark turns to his friends for comfort: Edward the virgin (Giovanni Ribisi) and Ruth the tavern whore (Sarah Silverman). He emotes what would be a 21st century understanding of how horrible the Old West is—including how many ways there are to die, obviously. Along with the continuous slapstick sequences of men getting trampled by bulls or keeling over from their own farts, MacFarlane’s movie is essentially a Family Guy episode in live-action form.
Louise becomes involved with Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), a pompous jerk with a greasy handlebar mustache. Harris truly steals the show, despite his limited appearances, especially in the hilarious musical number set to the “Mustache Song,” which was actually adapted from a song of the 19th century.
Confusing the nature of the movie, MacFarlane tries to give the film some heart with a sincere love story. Stark meets Anna (Charlize Theron), who promises to help him learn how to shoot in order to beat Foy in a gunfight and win Louise back. He falls in love with her instead, but little does he know that she is married to notorious gunslinger Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson). Neeson was allowed to keep his Irish accent which is completely ignored by other critics because the whole film is just that ridiculous.
This was nowhere near the caliber of Blazing Saddles. MacFarlane does what he does best, and resorts to cheap tricks for laughs. It had a few brilliant moments, but as a whole, it is best described as mildly entertaining.