Four chuckles. That’s how much fun I had with Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways To Die In The West, a supposed comedy that takes place in a stereotypical Wild West setting and uses some of the Western’s genre tropes. I phrase it like that because calling it a parody would be only half-right: there’s the occasional stand-off joke and the film’s characters are obviously based on the standard Western types, but other than that the Old West is just another setting for MacFarlane’s brand of humor, something best enjoyed in small doses. Physical comedy, toilet humor, cutaways and pop culture references have often worked great for Family Guy episodes with a running time of 20 minutes, but filling a 116-minute film takes a bit more than just piecing together a variety of jokes.
To remedy that we are “treated” to the story of Albert Stark, a sheep farmer who loses his girl and tries his best to win her back by becoming more of a man. This flimsy plot is what keeps all the whacky characters and sketches together, or so it tries at least. Unfortunately the story is dull and MacFarlane keeps hitting you over the head with its clichéd message. It’s mind-numbing really, and the multitude of fart, sperm and sex jokes don’t do much to change that around. There’s one crowd-pleasing cameo that breaks the monotony for a moment, but it’s an isolated scene that is over before you know it and has no bearing on the rest of the movie. MacFarlane has always demonstrated a tendency to throw stuff at the wall to see what sticks, but in the case of Ted and the aforementioned Family Guy the good mostly outweighed the bad. A Million Ways To Die In The West is a misfire though, if ever I saw one: it’s a cluttered mess with only a joke or two that actually hit in between a multitude of misses.
Furthermore the movie seems to suffer from the fact that Seth MacFarlane is one of the flick’s writers, its lead and its director. The film doesn’t move fluidly, scenes go on for far too long and many of its moments feel like MacFarlane just stepped on set to tell a joke he thought was funny. Because of this the movie is overlong, drags, lacks focus and is very, very repetitive. You get the sense much more should have been cut from the movie to trim it down and improve the pacing. A Million Ways To Die In The West really could’ve benefited from something more akin to a team effort, a creative environment in which MacFarlane wasn’t the be-all, end-all. Because a fantastic director and a charismatic lead he is not. His directing is serviceable at best, but when he’s not able to put on a voice or enhance a voice performance with animation, he’s quite the dull and wooden screen presence, always just Seth MacFarlane trying very hard.
A Million Ways To Die In The West is painfully unfunny and at times terribly schmaltzy. It’s the type of movie where you sit back and go: “Was this really supposed to make me laugh?” 2/10