A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

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For a very long time, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane has hidden behind something or someone.  Whether it is in the guise of an overweight, tactless man from Rhode Island or a foul-mouthed teddy bear, it is hard to appreciate him as anything more than a performer.  His controversial stint as the host of the 2013 Academy Awards didn’t help matters.  Now, in his first lead role in a live action film, MacFarlane sets out to prove that there is method behind his madness.

A Million Ways to Die in the West takes place in 1882 Arizona, and hapless sheep farmer Albert (MacFarlane) has just been dumped by his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried), in favour of the moustached yet pompous Foy (Neil Patrick Harris).  After befriending the mysterious Anna (Charlize Theron) he manages to find his courage through their blossoming friendship.  However, he is blissfully unaware that she is married to the quick-shooting Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), who isn’t too happy that someone else is getting cosy with his wife.

First of all, A Million Ways to Die in the West doesn’t beat around the bush on most things.  There’s racism, fart jokes and profanities a-plenty.  The jokes pluck a similar string to MacFarlane’s previous ventures on both TV and film,  so chances are you won’t enjoy the humour if you’re not a fan of Family Guy, American Dad! or Ted.  The all-too-familiar comedic material lacks originality and the jokes are so short and scattered, they leave very little time in-between to revel in the humour before you are hit with the next joke.   MacFarlane tries to put himself in the nice-guy role, but seeing him alternate from being doe-eyed and lovelorn to occasionally smug, liking him as a character is difficult.

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However, like his TV shows, what really pulls the film through is his supporting cast.  There is the gutsy yet likeable Theron, Sarah Silverman’s shy and sweet-natured prostitute, Neeson’s raspy-voiced dangerous outlaw and Giovanni Ribisi’s awkward Edward with the killer dance moves.  There is also the many cameos; even though they are mostly difficult to keep tabs on, their personal fleeting moments of surprise and humour is worth sitting through a film that is pretty hit-and-miss.

Overall, A Million Ways to Die in the West is entertaining and funny, and it is great to see MacFarlane in a live-action role.  But the crudeness and repetitive humour drops the film in the vast emptiness of its stunning backdrop.

A Million Ways to Die in the West  is out in UK cinemas on 30th May.

Director: Seth MacFarlane
Stars: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman
Runtime: 116 min
Country: USA

Film Rating: ★★★½☆

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