Film review: A Million Ways to Die in the West (15, 116 min)

A Million Ways to Die in the West: Louise (Amanda Seyfried), Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), Albert (Seth MacFarlane) and Anna (Charlize Theron)
A Million Ways to Die in the West: Louise (Amanda Seyfried), Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), Albert (Seth MacFarlane) and Anna (Charlize Theron)

A million ways to kill your own career

Towards the conclusion of A Million Ways To Die In The West, a Native American tribal chief confides an ancient proverb.

“Sometimes the only way for a man to find happiness is to take drugs in a group,” he opines.

The path to happiness certainly doesn’t meander through Seth MacFarlane’s rootin’ tootin’ comedy set in 1882 Arizona, which merrily lassos crudity, toilet humour and hoary stereotypes, and dispatches subtlety to the famous Boot Hill cemetery.

It’s a far cry from the writer-director’s offbeat buddy comedy Ted.

While Ted was potty-mouthed, occasionally mean-spirited yet full of heart, A Million Ways... is potty-mouthed, occasionally mean-spirited and full of wind: a symphony of flatulence ranging from cheeky parps to full-blooded, earthshaking trumpets.

MacFarlane complements his chorus of puerility by spraying and smearing every scene of potentially heartfelt emotion with bodily fluids.

Farmer Albert (MacFarlane) lives on the outskirts of “a dirty cesspool of despair” called Old Stump.

He is at odds with the gun-slinging etiquette of the era and loses his simpering girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) to a moustachioed rival (Neil Patrick Harris) after chickening out of a duel.

A mysterious woman called Anna (Charlize Theron) moseys into town and teaches Albert how to handle a firearm and muster his courage.

Under Anna’s expert tutelage, Albert becomes the man he always wanted to be and he falls in love with his feisty mentor.

Unfortunately, she happens to be the wife of bandit Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), one of the quickest shots in the west.

While Albert prepares to fight for Anna, the herder’s virginal pal Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) continues to romance town prostitute Ruth (Sarah Silverman), who won’t sleep with him until their wedding night.

A Million Ways To Die In The West is joyless.

Fleeting cameos by Ewan McGregor and Ryan Reynolds serve no purpose and the film’s best gag – a nod to a 1990 sequel – has been spoilt by the trailer.

A hallucinogenic sequence replete with Salvador Dali-esque livestock is equally superfluous, padding out the running time to almost two hours.

MacFarlane is attempting career suicide though, behind and in front of the camera.

Comedy/Western/Romance/Action. Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman. Director: Seth MacFarlane.