A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

Hear that sound? It’s the sound of critics and bloggers stoking up the fire and getting ready to burn the wicker man. And who’s the latest sacrifice? Well, it sounds like Brian the dog from TV’s popular Family Guy… Oh wait, no, it’s Seth MacFarlane from TV’s popular Family Guy.

Since its release, MacFarlane’s foul-mouthed western has been getting a shoeing from all areas. MacFarlane is shy sheepherder, Albert Stark, who loses his girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfreid) to the town’s lothario (Neil Patrick Harris). Though its not all bad as here comes Charlize Theron as Anna, who, unknown to Stark, is the wife of hardened outlaw, Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson). Anna and Albert’s new relationship is put to the test when Leatherwood comes back to town.

A Million Ways to Die in the West certainly doesn’t stand up to MacFarlane’s previous effort, Ted, but it doesn’t deserve the critical mauling it’s been receiving. The humour is crude and deeply offensive, but it’s also very funny. Sometimes breathtakingly so. Sarah Silverman as a virginal prostitute (yes, you read that right) is a particular standout. However, there’s only so far the shield of irony can protect you and some of the more racial jokes are dubious at best. Just because you’re taking potshots at everyone, doesn’t mean you should.

There’s also the problem with the third act when McFarlane tries to insert some emotion and drama into the proceedings. Slowing down the film to a snail’s pace, it could easily have been jettisoned in favour of some, you know, jokes.

With a stellar performance by Theron and the catchiest song about moustaches you’ll ever hear, A Million Ways to Die in the West is not the vanity project its been branded with (Let’s save that kind of thing for After Earth, guys!), but it is by no means his best work.

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