Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

A Million Ways to Die in the West


Sometimes it can be hard for me to put my finger on exactly why a comedy film isn’t working. With this one I came up with two.

This Seth MacFarlane’s second directorial effort, after the sweet little sleeper Ted, about a living teddy bear. In that one he pulled off a very difficult thing to do: blending raunchy humor with a sentimental story. Here he tries it again, and totally fucks it up. What we get is a series of fart, shit, and death jokes interlaced with a serious story of a sheep-herder trying to get over being dumped by Amanda Seyfried and falling in love with Charlize Theron. That’s all played pretty seriously, particularly when Liam Neeson shows up as a notorious gunslinger. And it just can’t be made to mesh with the gross humor of Neil Patrick Harris taking a dump in somebody’s hat at high noon on the main street of the town of Old Stump. The only way I can see to make the toilet humor play is to give yourself over to it completely, have many, many more fart jokes and shockingly gross deaths. Really go over the top, like Mel Brooks did in Blazing Saddles. As it stands, the gross jokes are just unpleasant, like a fart at a wedding.

The other problem is with Seth himself. He’s not that great a comic actor. I quickly got bored with his angst-ridden and cowardly Woody Allen-like monologues when he was in a tight situation. That works in Sleeper, but not in this one. He needed someone else in the starring role.

Basically, he doesn’t seem to have had the courage to make a flat-out joke-a-minute comedy, which is what this should have been. Something that explodes the genre, like Airplane did with the airliner thriller genre. When he goes for the ridiculous it just clashes with all the other stuff.