Press-Republican

Out & About

June 5, 2014

'Million Ways to Die' provides handful of laughs

Western comedies are difficult (“Wild, Wild West” anyone?), and “A Million Ways to Die in the West” isn’t going to be the film to end Hollywood’s decades-long losing streak in the genre.

Whether a viewer feels it’s terrible, or merely mediocre, probably depends on his/her tolerance for Seth MacFarlane.

The “Family Guy” creator and one-time Oscar host is the writer-director-producer of “A Million Ways,” and has also given himself his first live-action leading role.

MacFarlane assembled a good cast around him, and the film, set in 1882 Arizona, looks great and has an authentic Old West feel.

The humor, unfortunately, is far more miss than hit — much of it involving the lower digestive tract — and the movie bounces uncomfortably between raunchy and romantic comedy.

“A Million Ways” also runs quite a bit too long — maybe 114 minutes or so. Trailers for the film were very funny, but they also gave away most of the good stuff. A bit with Christopher Lloyd was hilarious the first time seen in previews, for instance, but the surprise value was totally ruined by the time the scene occurred in the actual film.

MacFarlane plays Albert, a cowardly sheep farmer who has a shockingly keen awareness of the dangers around him. His lack of backbone, however, causes him to lose his beloved Louise (Amanda Seyfried) to the clutches of smug, mustache-twirling dandy Foy, played delightfully by Neil Patrick Harris.

Charlize Theron is also excellent as the beautiful but tough stranger who rides into town and takes a liking to Albert, though her marriage to Liam Neeson’s deadly outlaw is likely to cause trouble.

Sarah Silverman, as a prostitute, and Giovanni Ribisi as her virginal fiance, try hard to add some laughs, but fail almost completely.

MacFarlane has sort of a boyish charm, but he seems overmatched here, and handcuffed himself with poor material.

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