Seth MacFarlane let his ego get the best of him as he produced, helped to write, directed and stars in the new film, A Million Way to Die in the West. The idea had possibilities. It's Arizona in 1882 and sheep herder Albert Stark (MacFarlane) is a misfit. He hates the west and all its violence. His girlfriend dumps him when he walks away from a gun fight. She takes up with the slick and wealthy man-about- town played deliciously by Neil Patrick Harris. Albert's best friend is a nerd whose girl friend is a prostitute and what our hero really wants to do is get out of town and move to San Francisco. The heavy in the plot is played by Liam Neeson who abuses his girlfriend when not robbing stage coaches. The girl friend is played by Charlize Theron and she's the best thing in the movie not only to look at but to listen to. She befriends Albert and teaches him how to shoot a gun when he's faced with another showdown.
This could have been a funny satire, but MacFarlane chose the low road and decided to see how many people he could offend, how many references to body parts could be made, how much profanity could be included and how many raunchy scenes you could squeeze into nearly two hours. I won't list them all but here a few so you'll know what you're in store for. That prostitute and Stark's buddy want to get married, but they will not consummate the relationship 'till then as they are "Christians". Meanwhile, she services up to 15 guys a day and in one scene vividly describes what some of her customers want her to do. This is funny? There's a musical number featuring dancing and singing sheep and close ups of their genitalia and a scene where they spray Albert with their urine. Both human and animal feces are gleefully displayed with close-ups.
It's really too bad that MacFarlane couldn't make up his mind as to what kind of movie he wanted to make. The love story that develops between he and Charlize Theron is quite tender and convincing, but it never takes hold because after every love scene we're back to the raunchy, crude content.
MacFarlane has a likeable but bland screen presence. Supporting roles are well cast and there a couple of brief, un-credited cameos by very well-known personalities that don't make much sense but are truly funny. The cinematography is striking at times with its breathe-taking, panoramic views of sandstone formations, mesas and windblown sand that dot the beautiful Monument Valley. I loved the rousing score by Joel McNeely which goes back to the memorable music of Max Steiner, Elmer Bernstein and Alfred Newman
Your reaction to A Million Ways to Die in the West pretty much depends on your tolerance of sophomoric toilet humor, constant profanity and tasteless situations.
Time: 116 minutes
Rating: "R" for strong, crude and sexual content, language throughout, violence and drug use.
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