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A Million Ways To Die In The West - Review

A Million Ways To Die In The West

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

IF THE surprise success of Ted helped to generate a lot of goodwill towards its creator Seth MacFarlane for anyone not already up with Family Guy, then A Million Ways To Die In The West is likely to dampen that enthusiasm.

A comedy Western that finds the writer-director also saddling up for his first starring role, the ensuing ride feels like a vanity project run amok.

That’s not to say it’s a laughter-free zone, more a self-indulgent mess that shoots as waywardly from the lip as its central character does from the hip. Hence, for all that works about the film, there’s too much that doesn’t.

The story, for starters, is fairly flimsy. When decent and cowardly sheep farmer Albert (MacFarlane) is dumped by his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) for wimping out on a gunfight he drunkenly challenges her new man (Neil Patrick Harris) to a duel.

Around the same time, he also meets another beauty, Anna (Charlize Theron), who agrees to coach him in gunfighting and who falls for his innocent charm while neglecting to inform him that she is the unhappy wife in hiding of notorious gunman Clinch (Liam Neeson).

If this scenario sounds kind of sweet and old fashioned, then it’s soured all too frequently by MacFarlane’s trademark rude and lewd humour, which doesn’t quite sit comfortably alongside some of the more Western-based stuff. What may have worked so well in Ted, strains itself a little too hard here, and leads to inevitable comparisons with the far more inventive Blazing Saddles.

Here, the jokes are largely over-egged, sometimes plain unfunny and all too often lazy in resorting to fart, poo and fuck gags. Attempts at poking fun at the West, meanwhile, all too often feel smug and delivered in a conceited, knowing fashion by its central character (as if telling the audience from the benefit of hindsight).

It’s ironically in the smaller moments that the film delivers with one laugh out loud cameo, especially, feeling inspired and two more deserving a round of applause. But one suspects they had more to do with MacFarlane’s star wattage post-Ted rather than any great writing.

It’s MacFarlane, in fact, who enereges as the film’s real Achilles heel. As co-writer, he must take a lot of the blame for the uneven tone and hit-and-miss nature of the gags, as director he’s responsible for the laborious pacing, while as leading man he also comes up short in the acting stakes.

His Albert just isn’t colourful enough to be anything other than a bland central presence but he is still afforded way too much screen time at the expense of his more illustrious co-stars, only a few of whom (Theron, Neeson) make any real mark.

Hence, while you may well laugh in places, you’re sure to be groaning in others and even snoozing for long periods. A Million Ways To Die In The West is a disappointing experience.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 116mins
UK Release Date: May 30, 2014