It seems too easy, for a film with so much toilet humor, to label it a pile of dung. So let’s say instead say that A Million Ways to Die in the West is a resoundingly bad film that seems almost hellbent on removing any element that might actually be entertaining. The concept is great – set in a deliberately anachronistic American West in which the plot and setting are 1882 and the language and sex jokes are 2014, this could have been an engaging romp in which the tension between the elements cast humorous illumination on the conventions of both time periods and on the Western genre as a whole. And in a summer market saturated with tentpole action films and sci-fi franchises, a Western film promised a breath of fresh air.
Alas, MacFarlane reaches for a genre spoof in the line of Blazing Saddles or Airplanes!, and is unable to deliver on any aspect of it.
Albert (Seth MacFarlane) is a sheep farmer with a pretty, pouty girlfriend (Amanda Seyfriend) and a serious lack of self-confidence. The latter takes a further blow when his girlfriend dumps him in the first five minutes for mustachioed store owner Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). After getting wildly drunk with his friends Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) and Ruth (Sarah Silverman as a brothel-working prostitute), Albert meet-cutes the new girl in town, Anna (Charlize Theron). From there, the film loops slowly around Albert’s attempts to grow up and be a man (as coached by Anna), Edward and Ruth’s relationship drama, and the menace posed by famous gunslinger Cinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson).