Talking to a silent dude who wears a poncho is definitely one way for sure.
During the year of 1882 in Arizona, a loser sheep farmer by the name of Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) practically loses it all; his pride, his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried), his courage, and even his own self-respect. Basically, Albert has no reason to live and even though he doesn’t want to off himself, he still knows that life in the West is dumb, which is why he decides to move away to San Francisco in hopes of changing his life for good. However, things turn around for Albert when a new lady comes into town named Anna (Charlize Theron). Not only is she smokin’ hot, but she seems to take a bit of an interest in him and makes him a deal: She’ll help him gain enough of his courage back so that he can win his ex back and eventually live happily live ever after. Albert thinks this is a great idea, except for the problem that he isn’t able to shoot a gun – which is practically a big “no no” in a place like the West, where just about everything and anything could kill you, at any time. To make matters worse, Anna also has a bit of a secret past that includes known-killer Clinch (Liam Neeson) and he’s not happy about her not being with him, and off with some wimp like Albert.
Though I’ve never been a huge fan of Family Guy, that sure as heck didn’t stop me from enjoying Ted. Sure, Seth MacFarlane loves his sophomoric jokes and and gags, but that’s sort of the point to his humor and for the most part, it’s done him quite well. And since Ted was such a success, it’s no surprise to see that he would eventually take all of that studio-money and make something that he clearly wants to do, from his heart and with himself thrown right into the middle.
I’m coming very close to calling this something of a “passion project”, which it may very well have been, but from the results of it, too much passion may have went on way too long and for too much.
That’s not to say it doesn’t seem like there isn’t much effort on MacFarlane’s part, because there totally is, however, it does seem like that a little of his humor can only go on for so long, until it all becomes repetitive and over-used. Maybe, just maybe I could have gone a whole two-hours without hearing jokes made about someone’s fancy-looking mustache – better yet, maybe, just maybe I could have gone the whole movie without a handful of jokes revolving around sheep’s penises. But with Seth MacFarlane that’s what you have to expect, which makes me wonder why it just did not work here at all.
Okay, that’s a lie, there are times when this movie can be pretty funny, but it’s not because of MacFarlane himself. Mostly, the laughs come from the fact that the ensemble he’s put together is clearly working their assess off to make any sort of joke hit. Because, even if they do fall flat, at least there’s still something to be interested by; like, for instance, why wouldn’t you make a joke or two about Liam Neeson’s terrible Southern-accent? Better yet, why wouldn’t you ever crack a joke about the fact that all of the townspeople look like your usual, ragged-type to be seen in these types of Southerns, yet, everybody else in the movie looks like they just walked off the set of a Loreal commercial?
For some reason, we never get those kinds of jokes, and instead, we are “treated” to ones about smiling in old-timey photographs, 19th century racism, hookers, virgins, pooping, and bar-brawls. Maybe that sounds like a good time to you, because it totally does to me, but somehow, Seth MacFarlane found a way to suck all of the air out of it and give us a piece that’s pretty boring, even when it is trying to be funny. Which, believe it or not, is about 75% of the time; the rest of the 25% is dedicated to action, drama, romance and awkward situations without barely a lick of comedy. And do trust me, I don’t have much of a problem with a comedy trying to be a tad serious and throw some heart into the story for good measure, just to even things out, but it was never interesting here, nor did it really do much for the characters themselves. It just seemed thrown onto us and almost like Seth MacFarlane needed a new editor-in-charge. Much like the feeling I can sometimes get with Judd Apatow’s pieces.
Which brings me to the man himself: Seth MacFarlane. Of course we all know, recognize, and, for some, love MacFarlane from his various voice-roles and maybe even his culturally-divided Academy Awards hosting-job, but here’s the first time in which we really get to see all of Seth, in his full-on, human-made form. None of that animated, voice-over crap; it’s just him, his face, and his ability to actually act and emote for the camera.
And, as much as it pains me to say, it makes total sense why he’s stayed behind the camera for so long in the first place.
That’s not to say that MacFarlane is really bad with the material really, it’s just that it’s obvious his face wasn’t really made for film. He’s sort of a bland screen-presence on screen that tells his own jokes, yells, hollers, acts goofy, puts on an “OMG” face numerous time, and occasionally have to act where he has to put on his “serious face” and whatnot. Sometimes, it works, and some other times, it doesn’t really do much of all. It just seems like him, hogging up the screen and taking away from some of the better, way more-talented members of the cast. Not to get on MacFarlane’s case or anything, but I don’t really see the guy taking over the acting world anytime soon. For now, I’d say to just stay behind the camera, keep on doing the voice-work and every once and awhile, show your face to let everyone know that you’re alive and you are in fact still working.
Anyway though, the rest of the cast fairs a lot better, if only because, like I mentioned before, they are a lot more skilled with material in general and they can usually make the most out of anything as silly as this. Charlize Theron gets the best acting out of MacFarlane because it seems like they share a natural-chemistry that makes it more than just being about her hot, rockin’ bod, even while she’s on the prime of reaching 40; Neil Patrick Harris gets the most laughs out of the whole cast as the mustached-man that Albert’s ex is now dating and shows us why if you give NPH something worthwhile to do, he’ll run with it and never look back; and Liam Neeson has a goofy accent but doesn’t get much funny stuff to do (even though we know he’s clearly capable of doing comedy). Also to mention, there are a few cameos here and there that are rather hit-or-miss. There’s one actually that’s quite spell-blindingly clever, yet, is totally ruined just by the sheer awkwardness of it all. Want to say what it is, but you may just have to wait and see.
Then again, maybe you don’t have to. Because honestly, you’re not missing much to begin with anyway.
Consensus: It isn’t that Seth MacFarlane isn’t trying with A Million Ways to Die in the West, it’s more that he’s just trying too much and doesn’t really know what’s considered “well-done crude humor”, against, “annoying, repetitive crude humor”. You know, if there is such a thing.
3.5 / 10 = Crapola!!