A Million Ways to Die in the West
- Emma Simmonds
- 2 June 2014
Family Guy and Ted creator Seth MacFarlane stars in this cowboy comedy-cum-vanity project
Seth MacFarlane comes out from behind the teddy bear to take centre stage in this misjudged effort. The writer-director-producer is also the flesh-and-blood star of a film that has the stench of a vanity project, a work of eye-watering indulgence that conspicuously follows the box office bonanza that was Ted. If you've seen the trailer you've seen the best gags.
Arizona, 1882. MacFarlane plays Albert Stark – a modern man who, as we're shown (and shown and shown), was born into the wrong time. He's a horribly untalented sheep farmer who finds life on the frontier a never-ending nightmare. When his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) dumps him for a twirly moustached schmuck (Neil Patrick Harris), a mysterious newcomer (Charlize Theron) promises to help him in his efforts to win her back. Little does he know that he's being assisted by – and falling for – the wife of an infamous outlaw (Liam Neeson).
During the first third the jokes come thick and fast, even if the laughs don't always follow. And then it dries up. Unsportingly, the talented cast are sidelined in thankless roles, allowing MacFarlane to do his thing. There's the sense that Theron should be grateful that she gets to occasionally play along with the humour and shoot guns. Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman, who play Albert's friends, have one (drawn out) gag between them. They're lucky – Seyfried barely has a line.
A Million Ways to Die in the West is like an overstretched Oscar skit with MacFarlane showcasing his stand-up routine against a Wild West backdrop and a clutch of cringing cameos. MacFarlane is exposed at the fore and, although he can undoubtedly deliver a line, he's an inexpressive actor. If ninety percent of acting is reacting then he only gives ten percent of a performance.