Far from the best in West
A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST ( MA15+) Director: Seth MacFarlane ( Ted) Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi.
AFTER creating a monster hit from behind the scenes with 2012’ s Ted, one- man comedy machine Seth MacFarlane steps in front of the camera for his feature acting debut.
It comes as no real surprise the prolific creator of TV’s Family Guy ( and one- off Oscars host) doesn’t have the performing smarts to anchor a near two- hour movie.
Nevertheless, there are just enough clever laughs to be found in this tale of a whiny, self- obsessed sheep farmer in the wild west to earn it a pass mark.
If you can venture beyond MacFarlane’s ungainly screen presence – alternately nervy, needy and naughty – you will find enough genuinely funny material to save the whole shebang from becoming a vacuous vanity project.
Exhibit A for the defence of A Million Ways to Die in the West: the spectacularly surreal sight of a sunflower growing from a place where the sun doesn’t shine on Liam Neeson.
There’s plenty more of that kind of proudly lowbrow, highly amusing stuff.
And don’t look up the cast list on IMDb, whatever you do. There are killer, blink- or- miss celeb cameos right throughout the picture.
Invariably, the best jokes come along just when you think you’ve had enough MacFarlane to last a lifetime.
MacFarlane plays Albert Stark, an 1880 malcontent with a 2014 turn- of- phrase who hates everything frontier life stands for.
Albert’s misery is usually expressed by a running series of extended monologues that sound like expired stand- up routines.
The film could have done with less of this pedestrian patter – which MacFarlane needlessly peppers with expletives – and more of the comic’s winning ways with sight gags.
There are standouts aplenty on that front. But if I had to stump up an Exhibit B, I’d go with the scene where a crowd of old- timey yokels see a $ 1 bill for the first time in the their lives.
Any other major pluses of note? Well, Charlize Theron could have coasted through the job of MacFarlane’s love interest, but she does not.
Neeson is the bad dude of the piece, and wears a black hat with the right dash of menace. Sarah Silverman plays a sex worker with strict Christian values and Giovanni Ribisi is her unquestioning virgin boyfriend.
Any major minuses aside from the star of the show?
Well, there are some offensive japes at the expense of ethnic minorities that should never have made the final cut.
Now showing Village Cinemas