You can take Seth MacFarlane out of Family Guy, but you can’t take the Family Guy out of Seth MacFarlane. Most fans of MacFarlane’s animated hit television series know that each episode contains thirty seconds worth of plot surrounded by twenty-four minutes worth of crude, funny, and non-sequitur jokes. If a person were to turn that animated series into a live-action film, replace the show’s animated lead character Peter Griffin (voiced by MacFarlane) with the real life MacFarlane, move the setting to the old west and stretch the running time to an excruciating 2+ hours, he or she would end up with 2014’s A Million Ways to Die in the West.
After sheep farmer Albert Stark (MacFarlane) is dumped by his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) for for “bein’ yella,” Albert decides the old west town of Old Stump may not be for him. A few miles outside of town, Clitch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson) and his gang of nondescript baddies rob and kill a gold prospector. Leatherwood splits up the gang and sends his wife Anna (Charlize Theron) and partner Lewis (Evan Jones) ahead to Old Stump because the plot requires them to. Albert challenges Louise’s new boyfriend Foy (Neil Patrick Harris) to a duel in an attempt to win back Louise, but instead falls in love with Anna literally hours before trigger happy Leatherwood arrives determined to shoot the man that kissed his wife.
If any of that sounded remotely serious, rest assured that someone gets explosive diarrhea and fills not one but two strangers’ hats with poop on main street, Albert goes on two different drug trips, a cat hops up on an operating table and leaves with a patient’s innards, a sheep pees directly on someone’s face, and so on. One running joke is that Albert’s best friend Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) is dating Ruth the prostitute (Sarah Silverman), and even though she talks about all her daily romps with paying customers, the two of them are “saving themselves” until marriage. Another running joke features multiple grown men dating the same nine-year-old girl.
The unrated Blu-Ray version contains an additional twenty minutes of previously cut material. With a run time of 2:15, this movie felt like a solid three hours, and I’m amazed that the theatrical running time was 1:55, as it could (and should) have been cut to around 90 minutes. Joke after joke falls flat. Don’t worry about missing one, as MacFarlane repeats them two and three times to make sure you catch them all. Just like Adam Sandler and his group of comedic goons, MacFarlane isn’t as funny without anyone to reign him in. Instead, we get too much exposition, too many camera winks, and too many of his buddies in front of the camera doing things that make only them laugh. While not terrible, it’s a two-hour pre-meal snack that doesn’t hold you over for long. The next day, I can barely remember any of the jokes (or the plot, for that matter).
A Million Ways to Die in the West currently has a 33% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which seems about right. Coming from a guy who enjoys Family Guy, two hours of MacFarlane as a clueless sheepherder deciding whether or not he should stand up for himself was too much for me.