A Million Ways to Die in the West

Review by Adam Woodward @AWLies

Directed by

Seth McFarlane

Starring

Amanda Seyfried Charlize Theron Seth McFarlane

Anticipation.

Ted was better than expected.

Enjoyment.

An almighty turd.

In Retrospect.

It’s about time MacFarlane had the stuffing knocked out of him.

Seth MacFarlane has opted to make a comedy western as his follow-up to Ted. It’s an epic fail on every conceivable level.

Having seemingly tired of recycling jokes for his long-running animated sitcom, Family Guy, Seth MacFarlane chanced his arm in 2012 by taking a stab at directing. Ted was a film that worked in spite of itself. Yes it was gimmicky, self-satisfied and tasteless, but it boasted an undeniable chemistry between Mark Wahlberg and the eponymous bad bear, thanks in no small part to MacFarlane’s superb vocal work. Yet Ted had more than charm and laughs — it had genuine heart.

In the intervening years, MacFarlane’s public profile has been raised substantially by a string of primetime guest appearances and awards ceremony hosting gigs, not to mention his impassioned campaigning for gay rights. So much so that it’s now MacFarlane’s face that’s being used to market his unique brand of white teenage male humour. On the evidence of this woeful follow-up, however, he should probably have stuck to doing silly voices.

What we have here is a lame vanity project packaged as a knockabout western that’s actually a cornball relationship drama in which, you guessed it, Seth gets the girl. It’s essentially a stock guy-meets-girl yarn propped up by a series of non-jokes — the feature-length equivalent of a stand-up’s awkward pause-for-laughter at the end of a misjudged routine, or an ’80s sitcom with the laughter track taken off, where painful silences are purposely created and then filled in spuriously self-deprecating fashion by, yep, MacFarlane.

His character, a lowly lovestruck sheep farmer named Albert, is supposed to be the common schmuck we’re all rooting for in a tumbleweed town full of cretins, whores and murderers, but his unbearably smug demeanour makes him fundamentally unlikeable. It doesn’t help, of course, when you can’t shake the sense that Seth MacFarlane’s biggest fan is Seth MacFarlane. Even the primary support cast of Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman don’t appear to be having a particularly good time in his company.

The irony of A Million Ways to Die in the West is that, in promoting himself to leading man status, MacFarlane has inadvertently become the punchline. Pitching yourself as an equal opportunities offender is all good and well, but in order to keep audiences sweet you’ve got to offer them gags that actually work, even if it’s on the broadest, most dumbed-down level imaginable.

Most surprising is how tame the film is. Which is not to say that MacFarlane doesn’t relish taking routine pops at Christians, Jews, Muslims, Native Americans, African Americans and blue-collar Americans, more that he only does so after wearing out every button on the industrial-size flatulence soundboard he presumably had custom-made for the film. The result is comparable to watching a grown man giggle incessantly at his own bowel movements for two solid hours. If only MacFarlane knew just how much his shit stinks.

Published 29 May 2014

Anticipation.

Ted was better than expected.

Enjoyment.

An almighty turd.

In Retrospect.

It’s about time MacFarlane had the stuffing knocked out of him.

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