Magazine article Variety

Seth's 'West' Is Shooting Blanks

Magazine article Variety

Seth's 'West' Is Shooting Blanks

Article excerpt

Seth's 'West' Is Shooting Blanks

A Million Ways to Die in the West

Director. Seth MacFarlane

Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron

The saddles don't blaze in "A Million Ways to Die in the West," and the pacing is limper than a three-legged horse. In following up his 2012 smash "Ted" with a lavish comic Western, Seth MacFarlane has delivered a flaccid allstar farce that's handsomely dressed up with nowhere to go for most of its padded twohour running time. The pic faced a formidable box office duel in its opening frame against Disney's costly "Maleficent," and it almost surely won't come within striking distance of "Ted's" $549 million global gold rush.

While it may be too tall an order to expect MacFarlane to deliver at the level of classic Mel Brooks (or Quentin Tarantino), "A Million Ways" fails to measure up to even its own creator's high standard for nose-thumbing irreverence. Indeed, from "Family Guy" to "Ted," we've come to expect the 40-year-old Wunderkind to go for broke and, when he fails, to go down swinging (as he did in his valiant but misjudged paean to Hollywood cleavage at the 2013 Oscars). What you don't expect from MacFarlane is a genteel, weightless genre parody that, even with its de rigueur parade of dick and fart jokes, is unlikely to offend anyone born after the gunfight at the OK Corral.

But that's exactly what MacFarlane serves up in this tale of a nebbish sheep farmer who falls for a gorgeous moll and finds his inner gunslinger in the process. When we first meet him, MacFarlane's Albert Stark has just weaseled his way out of a gunfight in the 1880s frontier town of Old Stump, Ariz., and been promptly dumped by girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried). So a disconsolate Albert returns to the family homestead, and to tending his disobedient flock, until chance brings him face to face with strapping new-girlin-town Anna (Charlize Theron), who fails to mention she's actually the wife of the most feared bandit for miles around, Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson).

Much of "A Million Ways" devotes itself to Albert's efforts to win back the hand of his erstwhile lady love, though it's a measure of the movie's lazy writing (by MacFarlane and co-scribes Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild) that Louise never materializes enough as a character for us to understand what drew Albert to her in the first place. …

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