A Million Ways to Die in the West

Posted by Joel Copling on May 30, 2014

Positive proof that an R-rated summer comedy must not be given the burden of sustaining a nearly-two-hour length, "A Million Ways to Die in the West" is beyond bloated, akin to a half-hour Funny or Die skit stretched so far beyond a workable genre effort that it becomes rather painful at times. Seth MacFarlane, who does quadruple duty here by directing, writing (in this case with two others, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild), producing, and starring in his second feature film, hits his sophomore slump with a dull thud. This is a cynical, lamebrained, fecally-minded stand-up routine in the guise of a motion picture that wants so desperately for some gag to stick to the wall it's attempting to hit. The joke-to-laugh ratio is approximately two of every twenty gags. Thank goodness, then, for Charlize Theron.

Theron, even as she looks like she wants to be elsewhere, is delightful in the co-lead role of Anna, wife of the greatest quick-shooter in the Old West, Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), and, hmmm, I wonder after whose name his takes? Clinch and his men are looking for gold, obviously. He sends Anna and Lewis (Evan Jones) into the dusty, violent town of Old Stump, wherein Anna meets Albert (MacFarlane, who rambles on and on in a mugging performance of constant one-liners), a well-to-do but dull sheep farmer whose girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried, looking despondent) has just left him for the mustachioed mustache entrepreneur Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). Albert, likely out of idiocy, challenges him to a duel, just as he and Anna spark up a romance and Clinch becomes privy two what's been happening while he was off-screen.

There is so much scatological humor within this film that an apology must be made to Adam Sandler, whose unfairly maligned "Grown Ups" movies combined didn't try to insult their audiences' intelligence as inexorably as this one does. A subplot involving Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman as a doting couple close to Albert who are debating whether to have sex before marriage while Silverman's character does her duties as a prostitute goes absolutely nowhere, but it's nothing to a pointless, extended sequence in which Foy drinks laxatives and defecates full-on into two gentlemen's hats (Woo-hoo for a close-up shot of the results!). The premise is clearly meant to be a parody of a Western, but mostly it's a trigger for a non-stop attack on the conditions of 1882 Old West (though the outlook on Parkinson's disease offers the film's best, most twisted joke, and a mid-credits cameo I wouldn't dare to spoil is rather apropos, given the character featured and the tone of the sequence). Imagination doesn't get very far in "A Million Ways to Die in the West," which suffers from too many embarrassments to be bothered to count.

Film Information

Seth MacFarlane (Albert), Charlize Theron (Anna), Liam Neeson (Clinch Leatherwood), Amanda Seyfried (Louise), Neil Patrick Harris (Foy), Giovanni Ribisi (Edward), Sarah Silverman (Ruth), Christopher Hagen (George Stark), Wes Studi (Cochise), Matt Clark (Old Prospector), Evan Jones (Lewis), Aaron McPherson (Ben), Rex Linn (Sheriff), Brett Rickaby (Charlie Blanche), Alex Borstein (Millie), Ralph Garman (Dan), John Aylward (Pastor Wilson), Dennis Haskins (Snake Oil Salesman), Jay Patterson (Dr. Harper), John Michael Higgins (Dandy #1), Julius Sharpe (Dandy #2), Gilbert Gottfried (Abraham Lincoln), Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown), Ewan McGregor (Cowboy at Fair), Ryan Reynolds (Cowboy in Saloon).

Featuring narration by Rex Linn.

Directed by Seth MacFarlane and written by MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, and Wellesley Wild.

Rated R (crude/sexual content, language throughout, violence, drug material).

116 minutes.

Released on May 30, 2014.