Soren Andersen: ‘A Million Ways’ to bomb in the multiplex

Staff writerMay 30, 2014 

Seth MacFarlane directs, produces, co-writes and plays the role of the cowardly sheep farmer Albert in “A Million Ways to Die in the West.”

LOREY SEBASTIAN/MCCLATCHY

Seth MacFarlane hates the Old West.

I know this how? Because he says so in “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” the follow-up effort to his megahit “Ted.”

“I hate the frontier. I hate everything in it,” his character, a barely disguised version of his contemporary self incongruously plopped down in 1882 Arizona, declares at one point.

That’s the gist, and there’s a whole lot of peevish ranting delivered by him to support his contention. The Old West? “Disgusting,” he declaims. “Dirty.” “Dangerous.”

Playing a gutless nice-guy sheepherder who’s dumped by his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) then falls perilously in love with the dishy wife (Charlize Theron) of a coldblooded outlaw (Liam Neeson), MacFarlane stirs in endless examples of the awfulness of the time and place where ceaseless violence, vicious animals and gory accidents make life nasty, brutish and, well, you know.

Seems like MacFarlane, who co-wrote, directed, produced and stars, is doing everything in his power to get his audience to hate the Old West as much as he does. He succeeds. Sort of. I sure did hate his version of the West.

What’s to hate? Let me count the ways. The laziness of the writing. The numbing overreliance on poop and pee jokes. The long, arid stretches between anything resembling a joke. The lifeless performances of most of the cast, with MacFarlane’s work front and center in that regard. The bizarre cameos by faded celebs like Gilbert Gottfried (playing Lincoln) and Christopher Lloyd (playing “Back to the Future’s” Doc Brown) that have nothing to do with anything.

The sheer joylessness of the whole enterprise.

You want a raunchy, hilarious Western spoof? Rent “Blazing Saddles.”

MacFarlane’s “A Million Ways To Die” is a vanity project that’s dead on arrival.

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST

H I I I I

Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Giovanni Ribisi, Neil Patrick Harris, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson

Director: Seth MacFarlane

Running time: 1:56

Rated: R; strong crude and sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug material

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