‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’ an uneven comedy routine

Jackson French

Seth MacFarlane’s newest comedy, “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” brings the creator of Family Guy’s brand of humor to the classic Western in a blend that doesn’t quite satisfy.

“A Million Ways” isn’t hard to identify as a MacFarlane project, as it uses the same sort of humor that has made his adult cartoons so popular. The animator’s lack of subtlety, fascination with slapstick and penchant for gross-out humor are all accounted for. If you’ve seen a few episodes of “Family Guy” or “American Dad,” you know what’s in store.

The movie’s focus on humor tends to work against the plot because the story feels like it’s only there to link a series of tangentially related jokes. “A Million Ways” follows Arizona sheep farmer Albert Stark, played by MacFarlane himself, who gets help overcoming cowardice from a gunslinging Charlize Theron and must later deal with her husband, a murderous outlaw played by Liam Neeson.


With a basic story connecting the dots, audiences are dragged from one scene to another for roughly two hours. The movie frequently comes to awkward stops so it can present its next comedic routine, which may or may not fall flat on its face.

The Western setting in this film feels like a poorly crafted diorama. Viewers are constantly taken out of the experience by inauthentic dialogue and Albert’s thoughts on the West, which were clearly written by someone with a viewpoint far too modern and global for it to actually make sense within the movie’s context. His constant whining about how the West is unsafe compared to places he doesn’t seem to have ever been gets old remarkably quick.

MacFarlane’s questionable acting skills don’t help sell the illusion either.

The jokes themselves are hit and miss, with the good ones summoning hearty laughter and the bad ones filling the theater with uncomfortable silence.

The most consistent source of laughs “A Million Ways” has is Neil Patrick Harris. Harris plays Albert’s rival, the suave proprietor of a shop called The Moustachery. For some reason, this parody of 19th century vanity is the best-fitting part of the movie and Harris never fails to entertain while onscreen, except for when he’s part of the longest poop joke ever filmed.

“A Million Ways to Die in the West” offers a plethora of funny moments and an almost equal number of failed attempts at humor. With the good jokes outweighing the bad ones by a slim margin, MacFarlane’s Western is just barely worth your while.