Seth MacFarlane is known for being behind the Oz curtain, so to speak. Voicing multiple characters on Family Guy and voicing the titular teddy bear from Ted has cemented his reputation as a talented voice actor, but in this western parody he experiments by making his smug mug the prime attraction for two hours of your time. Is he going to win an Oscar for his acting chops? No. Does he do a better-than-serviceable job at starring in a pretty fun movie that he directed and produced? Yes.
A Million Ways to Die in the West (“Seth MacFarlane’s “Western”” would’ve been a much better title, in my opinion. At least it doesn’t require eight syllables) stars Seth MacFarlane as Albert Stark, sheep farmer extraordinaire on his quest to regain his gold-digging ex-girlfriend, and worry about Clinch (Liam Neeson), the bandit that’s in town because *spoiler*. I won’t ruin any of the plot, but there actually is a lot of substance in the two hour narrative, albeit with a slightly padded last twenty minutes. Seth manages to integrate a lot of clever one-off sketches along the way, but none that obstruct the overall plot. It’s a well done story, is the point I’m trying to hammer home.
A bevy of Hollywood heavy-hitters are present, including Sara Silverman, Neil Patrick Harris, Amanda Seyfried and Charlize Theron. Everyone’s great, including lead man MacFarlane. Liam Neeson seemed to be having an especially good time with his role, since I assume he rarely dabbles in comedies.
But the important question remains: is it humorous? Chuckle-worthy? A guffaw and a half? In short, yes. The laugh-out-loud moments are few and far in between, but there are a lot of chuckles to be had throughout the two hour run time. Some jokes are very clever and subtle (particularly one referring to the accusations of video games harming children), others are cheap laughs based around someone tactically deploying an F-bomb, some are fun references to Seth’s other works (namely a few Ted references), and almost all of them are well done. I say almost, because there are a handful of gross-out jokes that just don’t feel right, namely a nasty sloppy-shit joke and the inclusion of sheep penises. Barring those two moments, the humor is solid. An added bonus is all of the wonderful cameos that are sprinkled throughout the movie (one of which is in an after-the-credits sequence, so don’t leave right away).
While A Million Ways to Die in the West isn’t for everyone, and quite a few art-house snobs have already deemed it cinematic garbage, I feel as though it’s a solid comedy that justifies a matinee movie ticket’s admission price. It’s no Ted, but for an unexpected MacFarlane experiment, it’s far better than the big reviews would leave you to believe.