This is going to sound harsh, but A Million Ways to Die in the West is the kind of film that leaves you wondering why it was made. Who thought this was a great idea? Why didn’t somebody stage an intervention during the production process? These are not the kind of questions that you want to find yourself asking during a movie, and yet, here we are.
Seth MacFarlane has directed, co-written and produced the film. If that wasn’t enough, he also stars in the leading role. MacFarlane is a renowned funny man, and has enjoyed significant comedic success. His transition from the television series Family Guy to the big screen, with his 2012 feature Ted, was a smooth one. However, the same cannot be said of his latest film.
MacFarlane takes us back to 1882, Arizona. He plays Albert Stark, a lowly sheep farmer who has recently been dumped by the gorgeously vapid Louise (Amanda Seyfried). Louise soon moves on to a wealthier suitor named Foy, played by Neil Patrick Harris sporting a ludicrous moustache. It isn’t until the beautiful Anna (Charlize Theron) moves into town that Albert starts to regain a little faith in himself and the world. Despite his obvious growing feelings for Anna, he sets out, with her help, to take on Foy. However, this too is doomed, as we the audience know that Anna is already married to an infamous bandit, Clinch (Liam Neeson).
It seems like MacFarlane has been given a lot of free rein with this film, but it would have been better if the creative control had been less concentrated. Possibly the worst decision was to cast MacFarlane in the leading role; surely someone must have advised him against this. It simply doesn’t work. You don’t once feel like you are watching the character of Albert Stark. Rather, you’re very aware that it’s simply comedian Seth MacFarlane on-screen. His performance feels very unnatural and out of place. He grows slightly more likeable as the film progresses, however, this isn’t saying much. The role would have been far better off in the hands of a more capable actor. Although, the film would still not have been saved.
The rest of the cast do relatively well. There are no performances that are too unbearable to watch, but they simply have no material to work with. There are some decent moments from supporting cast members Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman, playing a dysfunctional couple. Surprisingly, Theron seems to handle the material with the most ease. She demonstrates a knack for comedy, and seems most comfortable within the film.
One of the major problems with A Million Ways to Die in the West is that it is far too long. The film appears to finally be coming to an end, only to have the plot continuously develop. The movie is unbelievably repetitive. You should expect to hear the same jokes again and again. And again. So many scenes could have been tightened or cut altogether, saving us from a lengthy running time of 116 minutes. This isn’t saying that there aren’t a few laughs to be had, but they are few and far between.
Visually, the film is extremely lacking. Seth MacFarlane doesn’t appear to have gone to any effort to make it interesting to watch. He sticks to the visual aesthetic of a Western quite strictly, but without any flair. At times, MacFarlane deliberately mocks the genre, which creates a strange tension when other moments appear to pay tribute.
On the whole, A Million Ways to Die in the West lacks imagination. Barely enjoyable at times, it just isn’t worth your money. Hopefully Seth MacFarlane can win back his film audience with the recently announced Ted 2. If you are a fan of his work, I suggest skipping this and holding out for his next.
THE REEL SCORE: 3/10