[ Director: Seth MacFarlane; Screenwriters: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild; Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris; Running time: 116 minutes; Certification: 15 ]
Seth MacFarlane comedy is a bit like blue cheese; some love it, others ardently turn their noses up. For this reviewer, the creator of Family Guy, American Dad!, and Ted is an important figure in the genre; like Mel Brooks, he’s innovative (yes, really), uncompromising, and very funny – a comparison particularly relevant with his latest offering, a comedy western treading a similar path to Brooks’ Blazing Saddles. Indeed, A Million Ways To Die In The West will inevitably be compared to all the greatest parodies, and while it doesn’t reach the heights of the very best (Airplane!, Young Frankenstein, Life Of Brian), it certainly holds its own amongst others and out-guns many contemporaries.
As was the case with Ted, you’ll probably have to like the Family Guy sense of humour – or at least understand it – to find much enjoyment in this frontier, but if that’s the case then prepare for barrels of very rude fun. While not to go so far as to say it’s hilarious, A Million Ways is sufficiently and consistently funny. That’s in the good way, mind you, not the “this homework is sufficient” way. Consistent laughs from the opening sequence right through to the end generally subjugate the occasional lull, and some brilliant gags and references are found throughout – one of which pretty much earns an entire star itself. Entirely unexpected, absolutely brilliant.
The cast is great; Neil Patrick Harris as a slimy moustachery owner who gets between MacFarlane’s sheep farmer and his girlfriend (Seyfried) and sort of leads the film’s only musical number, “The Mustache Song”, is always a delight. Charlize Theron is just gorgeous (and pretty good at acting, too), and MacFarlane himself fits well in his directing/starring role, though I still have a little trouble not just seeing Brian when he talks. The occasional blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo sprinkled around adds further dashes of fun – and again, one in particular overshadows them all.
Overall, thumbs up. Perhaps my almost unadulterated kindness towards it stems partially from approaching from a defensive standpoint – critics have bashed the thing about to no end – but it is a genuinely funny film with plenty of things to like. It’s silly, daft and often crass, yet, like the best comedies, never assumes to be anything more. So why do people find the farting sequence in Blazing Saddles so brilliant but the laxative sequence in A Million Ways so tasteless? That’s anyone’s guess.